Munich Personal RePEc Archive

L'UEMOA, survivra-t-elle à la montée du sentiment anti-français en Afrique de l'Ouest ?

Kohnert, Dirk (2023): L'UEMOA, survivra-t-elle à la montée du sentiment anti-français en Afrique de l'Ouest ?

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The West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) was established by France to counteract the dominance of Anglophone countries in West Africa, particularly Nigeria and Ghana, over Francophone West Africa. Francophonie in French West Africa is mainly driven by a power elite, the 'Pré Quarré' in both France and Africa. The notorious Françafrique network determined the fate of the region for decades. This provoked a growing anti-French sentiment, which focused on three points. First, development policy; second, the currency; and third, the military. France was the only western country to maintain a significant military presence in the Sahel. While the number of French troops has fallen drastically from 30,000 in the early 1960s to around 6,100 today, political and military interventionism has not abated. But, after so many years of failed military efforts against terrorism in the region, citizens became increasingly suspicious of France's motives for being there. However, a clear distinction must be made between anti-French sentiment and anti-French military presence. Many believe that any presence of foreign troops in the Sahel makes the situation worse by attracting rather than repelling extremists. Yet, this view obscures two important realities. First, the development of a broader authoritarian movement, driven in part by Russia, that challenges democracy and its proponents. The local population makes France the scapegoat for the worsening of their situation on the ground. Its political leaders are capitalizing on hostility to the colonial legacy, including the CFA franc and military cooperation. This is fertile ground for insurgent military officials, who have no legal legitimacy but a thirst for authenticity. The slogan 'France, get out' has become a new means of legitimizing political and military power in French-speaking Africa. However, for some autocrats it is also used as a welcome distraction from acknowledging their own responsibility for the predicament. Africans are becoming increasingly aware that France is staying in Africa for its own interests. But anti-French is not necessarily pro-coup. The axis of young, fiery military leaders, seeking legitimacy from their terrorized compatriots, exploited all sorts of populist sentiments, from Africanism to the quest for economic independence. They accused Paris of supporting the terrorists who are targeting the local population so that France can continue siphoning off their resources and thereby sinking the country into increasing poverty. It would be a mistake to think that making it clear to Africans that they are being manipulated by the Russians would end the whole thing. Nevertheless, the African heavyweights of UEMOA, Côte d'Ivoire and Senegal, as well as the other member states, will keep the Union together out of self-interest, albeit on fairer terms. African public opinion is-understandably extremely sensitive to being treated as an equal. They don't want to be lectured to or made fun of.

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