EDITORIAL COMMENT: Macron cannot wish away colonial legacy

Emmanuel Macron

Emmanuel Macron

TODAY is France’s National Day as the European country celebrates 228 years of the Storming of the Bastille during the French Revolution.

This year’s celebrations come soon after the election of president Emmanuel Macron who succeeded François Hollande on May 14.

However, Bastille Day is being celebrated amid outrage and anger at remarks that the French leader made about Africa, at the just ended G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany.

Addressing the media, Macron was asked about an economic initiative for Africa’s growth and development, and in response he said that Africa’s problems were “civilisational” and the belief by some in having large families.

Despite the variance in the translation of his remarks, it is quite evident that the terms used by the French leader were not terms of endearment. According to one translation, Macron said, “The challenge of Africa is completely different, it is much deeper. It is civilisational today . . . One of the essential challenges of Africa . . . is that in some countries today seven or eight children (are) born to each woman.”

People from all corners of the world have roundly condemned Macron’s remarks, which do not only sound racist, but supremacist. Not only was he flexing his Big Brother muscle, but the youthful president was unwittingly demonstrating that the stigma and stereotypes from the West will never stop. With the rise of neo-liberal politics and the right wing in Europe, Britain and the United States, it will get worse.

If Macron had wanted to talk about policy issues and how best France can work with Africa, he would just have enunciated his government’s Africa policy. Africa was represented at the G20 Summit. Apart from South African president Jacob Zuma, the African Union Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat was also present.

The French leader must also provide answers for these racial slurs. What did he mean by “civilisational”? Was he alluding to the Western mentality and how they perceive Africa as the so-called “Dark Continent”? Is it also his responsibility to prescribe the demographic make-up of African families?

If Africa has no business in his family life, what gives him that right to try and dictate what is good or bad for Africa? Were these sentiments arising out of a frustrated leader who thinks that the only illegal immigrants and terrorists that have been crossing into and attacking France are from Africa?

It is understandable that some people never see any wrongs being committed by former colonial powers, and are willing to act as their lapdogs?

While campaigning for the presidency, Macron visited Algeria in February, and made a remark being used by racist denialists to support his remarks. He was applauded when he said colonialism was a “crime against humanity”, and this despite the fact that former French colonies remain firmly beholden to it. Macron’s cheerleaders are oblivious to his hypocrisy and double standards.

We have also followed Macron’s Africa approach with interest. When he visited Mali a few days after his inauguration whose interests was he advancing — Mali’s or French interests? With 1 600 French soldiers in the West African country, this could not be for Mali surely.

As Macron celebrates Bastille Day with other Western leaders in attendance, they should realise that there are no-quick fix solutions to the mess created by slavery, colonialism and interference in African countries’ internal affairs.

As we report elsewhere in this issue, Just before French colonies were granted “independence” in the 1960s, France organised and bound them into colonial pacts that see the 14 African states put 65 percent of their foreign currency reserves into the French Treasury, and another 20 percent for financial liabilities.

Africa does not need slave drivers, but equal partners in all areas, especially trade. The West pillaged and plundered this resource rich continent, and we do not need to be lectured about population control.

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  • Rasta!

    I agree with you on this occasion but African leaders perpetuate this view by their love of things foreign. Instead of spending money locally to develop our systems, the default is to head abroad….shame.

  • Tapiwa Mubonderi

    His Excellency President Macron is acknowledging that we have social challenges which are the result of the colonial policy of his country. The corporations of France and other imperial powers require access to African resources and control of our markets. If the typical African woman was in a place that she is able to assert her humanity and was embraced there would be room for neocolonialism. Out of the positive actions or contributions we get from African women is giving birth to multiple children and nothing else. Do we maintain the status quo and make our lack of contribution to the human race a thing to ignore?

    The honourable President Macron is leading a system that benefits from the theft of resources here and that is leading to us having challenges in being globally competitive. He is leader of France and sees something wrong with our societal set up, which his predecessors created and he is a beneficiary of. Our people here in Africa do not have an identity of their own, they expect external agents to provide them with a better life. When attempts to chart directions independent of the interests of our colonial masters are made, the African people doing so are deposed by deep seated colonial interests. Zimbabwe has been under sanctions for the past 16 years and France is one of the parties involved in that. In French colonies such as Ivory Coast, Chad, Central African Republic and Congo Brazzaville there is a lot of warfare over resources with France being the major player.

    The worst part of his address is it seems he is gloating over a set of circumstances he is responsible for as a Berlin Conference power political leader. Should we expect President Macron or any other Occidental political actor to help the African people? If anything this is a challenge to us to act in our interests. What are we doing to improve ourselves and prevent us from being humiliated by people such as President Macron in future?

  • Tapiwa Mubonderi