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By Francis Tazoacha (Download pdf)


Recent events in former French African colonies may seem strange to some people, but to others, these events have been long overdue. Many see it as Africans’ intransigence to democratic norms and the military quest for power. But the stark reality is that francophone African countries are shaking themselves off the shackles of incomplete decolonisation. During independence struggles in the 1960s when other colonisers were granting “full independence” to their colonies, France granted peaceful independence to her colonies, while retaining an exorbitant sphere of influence through socio-cultural, economic and military accords of cooperation that it engineered and signed with those colonies (DeVore, 2020). For about six and a half decades, France has exerted its control over these overseas vassal territories in Africa, often described as Françafrique (Sunju, 2021). As a result, these colonial masters  have over-sourced the resources in this part of the continent at their detriment, and interfered in their socio-economic and political lives. These former French colonies in Africa muddled in a quagmire of a multitude of acute problems and underdevelopment, have blamed France for their predicaments, thus generating anti French sentiments across the sub-region. Hence, the aim of this article is to….

Contextual background

The Congo Conference also known as the Berlin Conference that was held in Berlin Germany on the 15th of November 1884 and later adjourned and finalised on the 26 of February 1885 was held under the request of King Leopold II of Belgium and organised by Otto Von Bismarck. This conference paved the way for the scramble and colonisation of Africa (Gates and Appiah,  2010). Britain and France colonised about  95% of the African continent. France maintained control of the Northern, Western and parts of Central Africa while Britain had control of Eastern and Southern Africa. French colonies were concentrated in West Africa than any other part of the continent. All its colonies in West Africa were constituted into a loose federation with its headquarters in Dakar, Senegal (HistoryVille, 2022). The period of colonial administration did not last very long and it  was not just about the actions of the colonisers but it was also about the actions of the Africans and what they thought.

The transition from colonization to coopération was “smoothed” before France granted independence to its colonies in Africa. The comprehensive accord between France and each former colony were fundamental as these transcended areas such as defense and security, foreign policy and diplomatic consultation, economic, financial, commercial, and monetary matters; strategic minerals; and technical assistance. For example, France has kept military bases in several former colonies since independence such as in Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Senegal, etc.,  and currently has three  thousand troops on the field in the Sahel to maintain a form of control over these countries with the pretext of fighting terrorism (Mazhum, 2023).

Through the linkage created between the colonised and the colonisers at independence, the signing of model cooperation agreements, and the wholesale adoption of the French constitutional model of the Fifth Republic, France institutionalized its political, economic, monetary, and cultural high status over its former  colonies in Africa (Britannica, 2023). Charles de Gaulle, France’s most influential postwar president, summed up its importance by saying: “French world power and French power in Africa were inextricably linked and mutually confirming” (Ramdani, 2023).  While recognising self-determination movements, De Gaulle and subsequent French leaders wanted to hold on to their strategic military bases, as well as energy resources and favourable trade deals, along with financial control (Merom,1999) . From  January 30 to February 8, 1944 General Charles de Gaulle convened the Brazzaville Conference that was sponsored by the French Committee of the National Liberation (CFLN) in Brazzaville, the capital city of the colony of French Equatorial Africa (Merom, 1999).   The conference  was a milestone that was meant to   determine the role and future of the French colonial Empire and to design the reforms that would perpetuate it.  The French colonial interest in West Africa has been motivated by commercial, economic and geopolitical  interests and perhaps, not to assist and develop these former colonies. French political administration and their economic involvement in Africa have been fairly consistent throughout the colonial and post-colonial era, reducing Francophone African presidents to puppets (Dupraz, 2015).

What has all Gone Wrong?

The exploitative relationship that France had garnered with her former colonies in Africa is speedily fading away as most Africans are being courageously enlightened of the situation of the quasi independence they have been in for about six and a half decades.  For more than sixty-five years, the countries had been seen as toys in the hands of France. They accused France of their underdevelopment, recurrent coup d’états, civil wars and manipulations (Dirsus, 2017).  The most damning failure was in 1994 in Rwanda when France failed to act even as its ally, the regime of then-President Juvenal Habyarimana, began to prepare a genocide (Asala, 2021).

Even though from the mid-1990s forward, different governments worked to improve France’s engagement with Africa and give more priority to development and better democratic governance, this did not last long. But sooner or later the  momentum began  stalling. The persistent French intervention in its former African colonies’ internal affairs was much more with arrogance. For example in 2007, Nicolas Sarkozy remarked with a spectacular lack of tact, that “the African man has not sufficiently entered into history” (Gielis, 2014) . He favoured old allies such as the Bongo family, who have governed Gabon since 1967 (Melly, 2013). During François Hollande’s presidency, France lacked the political strength to revive the reform efforts that other French leaders had mustered. The resentment further worsens when the former French colonies believed that they might have had political independence from France, but financially and economically, the French-speaking African countries were never free. Furthermore, many consider that the currency inherited from the colonial era has been a hindrance to the African countries to control their economy and develop autonomously (Pallaver,2015). The imperialist monetary policies in France’s former African colonies dictated from Paris will continuously cripple the economies of these countries and undermine democratic processes in these ‘sovereign” states. Colonialism in these countries will not come to a meaningful end unless true economic independence is unleashed from France’s grip.

Africa is endowed with abundant natural resources. There is no reason why the continent should have all the natural and intellectual resources, and yet be the least developed continent in the world. The presence of the  French military in Francophone Africa has increasingly fueled the widespread sense of resentment across West Africa (Faye, 2023). Despite that massive and sustained military effort to fight the jihadist, France has not been able to decisively overcome the threat from these jihadists, whose attacks on local communities and security forces have continued unperturbed. Therefore, the African began to wonder the presence of the French military in the continent. Yet a momentous proportion of local public opinion are cognizance of the fact that France, as a high-tech Western military power, should have been able to assist solve the problem of the jihadist terrorism and increasing insecurity in the Sahel as well as  the civil war in Central African Republic (CAR) and unfortunately the French have not been able to resolve these problems. . These feelings seem to have motivated the public in Francophone Africa to continuously nurture the anti French sentiments. 

France’s Fate in Former Colonies in Africa

A majority of the population of the former French African colonies are youths and continue to be conscientized of the history of their respective countries and fear for the future. They believe that there is the need to take the destiny of their countries into their own hands rather than being monopolised and dictated by a foreign nation. African citizens are embittered of  the fact that  since independence (about six and a half decades), they have wallowed in armed conflict, poverty and underdevelopment despite the abundance of the natural resources their countries are endowed with. The population has equally believed that the so-called democracy superimposed on them is a tool for subjugation, exploitation and manipulation (Forjwuor, 2023).

With the expansion of the Chinese, the Russian and Turkey’s spheres of influence in Africa,  the French presence has been complicated.  In 2016, China’s investment in Africa was $38.4 billion versus France’s $7.7 billion (Signé, 2019). Russia has been seen as expanding its influence in Africa militarily.  One of the main emphasis of France’s continuing links with Africa is opposing Islamist militants in the Sahel. Unfortunately, the French have not been able to resolve jihadist insurgencies in the Sahel (de Freitas, 2023).

The expanding anti-French sentiments especially among the youth has been further perpetrated   by events such as the genocide in Rwanda, the civil war in Côte d’Ivoire and the crisis in Libya.  While the older generation still suffering from the hangovers of colonisation is more likely to support strong ties with France because they believe it brings stability, the younger generation sees it as a brake on the development of African states and businesses.  The African youths believe that the French are using the older generation (elite class) as a bridge through their “democracy” to continuously remain in Africa. These youths have not experienced colonisation, nor the independence period, so they have no complex in confronting the French to liberate their countries. It is a generation that demands to deal on equal footing with the former coloniser, or the latter go for good. This is the reason why the youthful population celebrate their rebellion through military coups. The recent events in Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and most recently Gabon, the anti-French sentiments in Chad and Central African Republic demonstrate that these African countries and certainly others want to shrug themselves off the grip of France. As such, the French grip or cooperation over its former colonies seems rather ephemeral now – it is just a matter of time.


The conscientiousness of the former French colonies for the total self-determination is on the rise and welcome by the populace through jubilations as each regime supporting the French control over them is ousted. Each French former colony is taking the baton one after another. Thus, what will be the fate and future of French authority over its former colonies in Africa? As France’s global hegemony declines, its hopes were in Africa that seemed to have been its best opportunity to hold out a strong influence and relative authority. But the Africans are already shrugging themselves off the grip of France. So the question of the day many are asking is if this is the second decolonisation. Some pundits are of the opinion that either France cooperate with is former colonies as equal partners or it loses them, for countries like China, Russia, Turkey are already beckoning for such cooperation.


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