Down with French colonialism in Africa! French and African workers – the same exploiters, the same fight!

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
September 4, 2023

“This is madness!” Macron said last Monday, choking on his words, in front of a group of ambassadors gathered at the Elysée Palace. He was referring to the wave of coups in Africa. But who exactly is mad ? Those who reject France’s presence in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger or those who, like Macron, are ready to start a new war that will plunge the Sahel into even more war-torn chaos?

Macron is playing the tough guy with the Nigerien junta and refuses to recall his ambassador. He can't stomach the fact that France is being pushed out. According to him, the French army saved the Sahel from jihadism! But the Nigerien population knows the real effects of Operation Barkhane since it was launched a decade ago: armed gangs continue to proliferate, extorting money and terrorizing the population in an increasingly large area.

And what has France’s long presence in Africa done for the countries which are among the poorest in the world? Built roads? Hospitals and schools? Not even that. France built roads to transport mining and agricultural resources when it needed to but that’s it.

Niger’s uranium reserves are used to produce electricity in nuclear plants in France while the majority of the Nigerien population has no electricity at all! Oil companies Elf-Aquitaine and Total got rich by exploiting oil fields in Gabon and the French company Eramet is currently mining manganese there but there’s no benefit for the population.

And the same type of domination can be found in Ivory Coast, Guinea, Mali, Congo and Senegal... because pillaging is not something from the colonial past. It’s part of the present where atrocious dictatorships backed by France still thrive. That’s what makes all the lecturing on democracy in Africa so unbearable.

Last week, Gabon was shaken by a palace revolution. The Bongo dynasty, backed by every French president of the Fifth Republic from De Gaulle to Macron, had been in power for 54 years. The Bongo family was able to accumulate a fortune worth over 85 million euros in France, including 33 properties in the Paris region and 11 on the Mediterranean coast, all with the complicity of those presidents. The Bongo dynasty is one among many of French imperialism’s well-paid subcontractors.

In Tchad, for example, Mahamet Deby has a pretty good seat. He succeeded his father through a coup that was backed straight away by Macron. Same thing in Congo-Brazzaville where Sassou Nguesso has been in power for 41 years... Lifelong presidents and high-ranking officials with blood on their hands have always been great friends of the French Republic as long as they serve the interests of French capitalists.

Yes, African workers and peasants have every reason to reject French imperialism!

In this fight, they must be able to count on workers here in France, many of whom come from other African countries and still have personal ties there.

Africa has been plundered by the same bourgeoisie that exploits us here, the same bourgeoisie that dictates Macron’s policies against the working class. The government is ready to wage war in Africa and has joined the US in the war in Ukraine against Russia for the sole interests of big business. Fighting against the imperialism of one’s own country, against the ravages and wars it foments is an integral part of the struggle of all workers.

We shouldn’t be surprised that the population applauds the putschists even though they come from the dictatorships’ inner circles. Just like many workers dream of getting rid of Macron here by relying on any politician it would take, many people in Mali, Niger and Gabon rejoice in seeing totally corrupt men ousted. Even if they suspect that the putschists are just as greedy as those they claim to replace.

We shouldn’t be surprised either that some imagine that Russian, Chinese or American guardianship could be a better solution. As long as workers lack faith in their own class, they will hide behind what they consider to be the lesser evil or seek out a savior among the many demagogues.

Even though only a minority is aware of it today, the working class is the only force capable of replacing this decaying world order, the only force capable of ending exploitation and the domination of rich countries over poor ones. It’s the only force capable of putting an end to all the rivalries between imperialist countries that are now plain to see and leading us toward full-out war and chaos.

Nathalie Arthaud