Review - From Colonization to Globalization: Difference or Repetition?
Date: Monday, June 08 @ 04:47:27 UTC
By Rosemary Ekosso
May 01, 2009 - ekosso.com
Paper by Martial Frindethie
Note: the full text of the paper is available at the link provided at the end of this posting, which is only a review of the paper.
This paper is quite possibly one of the most startling I have read in a while. That so much information is available, and that people may not be privy to it, is one of the tragedies of humanity. We have the wherewithal to save ourselves and yet we do not.
Frindethie's paper is largely about his reading of the recent history of Côte d'Ivoire. The tone is one of someone in a towering rage at the French government and French interest groups. For this reason, it will be of particular interest to Francophone Africa. And although Frindethie comes across as a very, very angry man, his tone shifting from sardonic to downright bitter, this is a well-researched philippic.
In my view, almost none of the people mentioned in the paper come out smelling of roses, to say the least. Certainly not the French government or French business interests in Africa. Not Kofi Anan. And most certainly not Alassane Ouattara, nor his wife the Frenchwoman Dominique Nouvian Folleroux, described as a "femme fatale" by Frindethie. On the strength of the evidence, one is inclined to agree.
If you are one of those who harbour a vague distrust of what powerful foreign governments might intend for your country, but have not progressed further than a few careless, half-baked conspiracy theories, this kind of paper is for you. It gives us a historical over view of French colonialism, with interesting sideswipes detailing the fact that France does not win wars. I was interested to learn, for instance, that after the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, France had to pay $1 billion in addition to losing Alsace-Lorraine. It paid up pretty quickly. But earlier, in 1815, when Algeria asked France to repay a loan of 18 million francs it had contracted to alleviate an impending family and keep Napoleon's soldiers happy, the French replied first with insolence and the with 600 ships and 37000 troops which "raided mosques and transformed them [in]to cathedrals…destroyed private property…raped women, and executed hundreds of Algerians."
With such interesting detail, the author discusses the Scramble for Africa, France's history on the continent, its classification of its colonies, and its heavy-handed paternalism. This information is easily available to anyone. But what is new and highly interesting is the incisive analysis of these events.
Then we move into the modern era. I offer you a quote from the English text of the paper (I have edited the text very slightly for clarity):
The World Bank and the IMF's insistence that developing countries open their economies to Foreign Direct Investment has enable the re-occupation of the countries that had resolved, half a century ago, to determine the course of their particular development away from the imperial ambitions of Europe. In most cases, globalisation has succeeded in reinstating European – and American – imperialism by allowing First World capitalists quasi-ownership of Third World countries through purchases of strategic government-owned enterprises, such as power, water and communication companies.
Moving on to politics, particularly Ivorian politics, the author delves into an area which, much as it arouses my curiosity, fills me with unease. I am referring to the accusations of xenophobia hurled at the Ivorian government some years back, particular Henri Konan Bedié. A surfeit of nationalism, or jingoism of some sort, seems to taint this part of Ivorian history. Frindethie attempts to explain that this impression was gained from biased media reports (meaning French media outlets – bear in mind that a French reporter, Jean Hélène, was shot and killed in Côte d'Ivoire at about that time, as I blogged here. That I can readily believe. But I'm, still a tad uneasy when people say things about immigrants. Perhaps I am over sensitized.
Perhaps Frindethie is right to ask: "Why Francité but not Ivoirité?" I think the question is highly relevant in that it raises the right issue. When the author refers to the lack of "moral reciprocity" in France's attitude to Africa, I am immediately reminded of the highly telegenic Monsieur Dominique de Villepin nobly playing the French David to a warmongering American Goliath in the run-up to the Iraq war, while the reality in many former French colonies is very much a situation of African Davids facing a French Goliath, who is no less of a bloodthirsty monstrosity than what the French wanted us to think the Americans were.
But I digress. As I have said before, the author's emotions are fairly obvious. I do not know that the article might not have benefitted from a more measured tone, but I suppose there are many ways to skin a cat. It might also have helped if he had written in French and been translated or if he had asked someone to look over the text for him. There's more than a whiff of French in the English of this paper. But I am a translator, and therefore totally paranoid about keeping languages separate.
I readily admit that those are small potatoes. Frindethie's paper is riveting to read and I fear I have not done it justice in this review. It has given voice to questions that I have not the knowledge or expertise to ask or answer. It would be interesting to see whether other writers on the wrong side of the Francafrique tracks are moved to conduct similar studies.
Somehow I think the reason there not a greater outcry about French activities in Africa is that we cannot see the wood for the trees. We need to have an overview, as it were, and the only way we can do that is to create a repository of information. There has been some attempt, such as on Jimbimedia's Francewatcher site http://www.francewatcher.org/ , but we could do with more comprehensive work.
The full text of the article is available here: