By Owei Lakemfa
IN the continuous European game of shifting blames over rescuing African migrants floating in European waters, angry Italy lashed out at self-righteous France. Mr. Luigi Di Maio, the Italian Deputy Prime Minister said: “France is one of those countries that by printing money for 14 African states prevents their economic development and contributes to the fact that the refugees leave and then die in the sea or arrive on our coasts.”
The Italians are referring to the 74-year-old colonial French policy splitting its colonies in Africa into two currency zones with eight countries making the West African Economic and Monetary Union and six others constituting the Central African Economic and Monetary Community, and imposing the French Franc, CFA, on them. France prints the CFA, pegs its value and makes the 14 countries deposit at least 50 per cent of all their foreign exchange reserves with the Bank of France. As at January 2018, these poor African countries had at least 8.9 million Euro of their money held in the Bank of France which gives them a fixed 0.75 per cent interest rate no matter how high the rates are in France or the European Union.
What independence can these 14 African countries have when another country holds and controls all their currency? In reality, these remain quite poor countries, and cannot, economically and politically, be compared with former British colonies like Nigeria and Ghana. France controls the currency, economy, politics, military and governments of these countries making them quite vulnerable, dependent, poor and lacking initiative.
The French method of maintaining control over its former African colonies is to beat them into line including carrying out massacres, destroying or overthrowing governments that show the slightest form of resistance or independence. When Algeria in 1954 demanded independence, France drowned the country in rivers of blood. Within eight years in what became the Algerian Revolution, France massacred over 1.5 million Algerians. Franz Fanon’s most famous book, The Wretched of the Earth is based on that genocide.
The French on September 28, 1958 conducted a referendum for its colonies giving them options of independence or to remain within the French community. Sekou Toure, the trade unionist who led the Guinean patriots, wanted independence. He declared: “We prefer poverty in freedom to riches in slavery.” So while countries like Cote d’Ivoire voted by 99.99 per cent, Congo by 99.38, Upper Volta (now, Burkina Faso) by 99.8, Chad by 98.29, Dahomey (now Benin) by 97.84 and Senegal by 97.55 per cent, only 4.78 per cent voted in Guinea to remain while the rest voted to be independent. An angry France turned on Guinea, destroying files, machinery, infrastructure and doing all it could to return Guinea to the Stone Age.
Dr. Félix-Roland Moumié, 34, was leader of the Cameroonian nationalist movement, the Union des Populations du Cameroun, UPC, which rejected a phony ‘independence’ from France. When colonial France turned on him, he went into exile in Conakry, Guinea. During a visit to Geneva, Switzerland, he was invited to dinner on October 15, 1960 by a 66 year-old journalist, William Bechtel, whom he had met earlier in July in Accra, Ghana, to discuss UPC’s armed struggle against French colonialism. It turned out that Bechtel was an assassin from the French secret service, SDECE. He poisoned Moumie with Thallium. Although the Swiss Police found traces of the poison on Bechtel, confirming he administered the poison, he was allowed to leave the country.
In 1958, Sylvanus Olympio won elections as Togolese Prime Minister. France imposed 800 million CFA on the country as cost for infrastructure when it colonised and exploited the resources of the country. Olympio, a lawyer, mobilised the Togolese and paid the French extortion within two years. The country became independent on April 27, 1960. To make Togo truly independent, the Olympio administration moved towards building strong relations with the United States, US, Germany and Britain. Then in a move that turned out to be suicidal, Olympio decided in 1962 to establish the Togolese Central Bank in preparation to floating its currency. That meant that Togo was trying to exit the CFA Zone arrangement.
The French on January 13, 1963 organised a coup using its Togolese legionnaires who had just returned from fighting its colonial wars in Indochina and Algeria. When the soldiers arrived in his residence, Olympio had only two unarmed policemen as security. He was able to escape in his shorts into the neigbouring house which was the Residence of the American ambassador. The ambassador asked President Olympio to stay on the premises. Shortly afterwards, the soldiers, apparently with American permission entered the embassy building and Olympio was executed.
France’s naked interventions in Africa continue. After the 2010 controversial elections in Cote d’Ivoire, the French military simply took sides against then President Laurent Gbagbo, seized and exiled him to Europe in the name of bringing him before the International Criminal Court on what were manifestly trumped up charges. The truth the French will not reveal is that Gbagbo had begun to take independent positions including reforming the banking system that can lead to an exit from the CFA.
The colonialists also used Africa for experiments to which they will not expose their own people. On February 13, 1960, France conducted its first nuclear test; the equivalent of four Hiroshima bombs, at Reganne, on the Tanezrouft Track, Algeria, in the Sahara Desert. The radiation spread across West Africa with people experiencing birth defects and cancer. The French Ministry of Defence claimed that 27,000 Algerians suffered effects of the radiation while independent monitors said it affected some 60,000 persons. Over 57 years later, the Algerians are still suffering the effects of the four atomic bombs the French tested over a two-year period.
France is just the typical colonial master that visited unspeakable atrocities on the colonies especially in Africa. How does the colonial master whose primary interest is to loot, safeguard the interest of the colonised? Its first interest is to safeguard its own interest even if it gravely hurts those of others. An African Wise Saying teaches that if you and your child are on fire, you first put out the fire burning you before seeking to put out that on your child. In aviation, you are told that in case of emergency, oxygen masks will drop from the panels above your head; you are advised to first fix your mask before helping your child or others.
Any African that claims that the colonial master will first safeguard the interests of its former colony before its own, needs urgent psychiatric evaluation. For the victims of colonialism, the task is to unite and present a common front to defeat neo-colonialism. In unity and solidarity lies our strength.