Viewing Africa with double standards is part of why Africans are breaking their ties with Europe, Martin Jay writes.
The paternalism isn’t uniquely France’s. It’s a malaise of western elites and viewing Africa with double standards is part of why Africans are breaking their ties with Europe.
The row in front of the cameras was thrilling as it was unprecedented. The president of Congo made the point in front of the journalists that France’s foreign minister’s comments about the president’s election being some kind of compromise of democracy was unacceptable as France itself is guilty of election irregularities. But they are not reported with the same zealous paternalism and are not even presented the same way as they are in reality, but distorted by media. Macron responded that the foreign minister’s comments were distorted and that the French media doesn’t represent France, a point which Felix Tshisekedi did not accept at all, which raised a round of applause from the journalists present in Kinshasa.
It was Macron’s last day of his Africa tour and one which he will remember as being a PR disaster. The point of the tour was to shore up support from old allies on the continent but, in this context, it could hardly be a success when you look at the YouTube footage of the DRC press conference.
In so many ways, the speech of Tshisekedi was so pertinent though. It felt like he was trying to avert another catastrophe to prevent his own country going down the same road as Mali, Burkina Faso and probably Chad soon. France is losing its former colonies in Africa faster than Macron can say “FrancAfrique” and Tshisekedi is clearly conscious of this historic time for France.
“Look at us differently by respecting us, by considering us as true partners and not always with a paternalistic look with the idea of always knowing what is necessary for us” Tshisekedi said, wagging his finger at Macron.
“Francafrique no longer exists. We must establish a policy of equals.”
He urged for an equitable relationship between the two nations and pushed France to impose sanctions on Rwanda for the ongoing violent conflict in the country’s Goma area.
But what happened next was both shocking and ominous in how Macron reacted to the problem of militias in Rwanda controlling parts of the Congo’s border region and sums up so perfectly what is wrong with France’s delusional views about itself and even its contemporary history in Africa.
Macron denies all responsibility and waves the finger.
“Since 1994, and it is not France’s fault, I’m sorry to say it in such blunt terms, you have not been able to restore the sovereignty, neither military, nor security, nor administrative, of your country. This is also a reality. We must not look for culprits outside this affair,” said the French President.
The DRC government has accused Rwanda of backing the militia group M23, which re-emerged from dormancy in late 2021, subsequently occupying swathes of territory in North Kivu.
If only Macron’s statement was even half true, perhaps it could garner a shred of ephemeral credibility at the press conference. In fact, it was a bare-faced lie and Macron knew perfectly what he was saying and how he was papering over a genocide in Rwanda which is entirely the fault of France and the government of Mitternand who ordained his son to run an information terror campaign called “Network Zero” which installed so much fear in uneducated Hutus that they took the responsibility of butchering the Tutsis themselves. France set it up, ran it and then washed its hands of it when the then president of Rwanda, an Elysee puppet and a Hutu moderate, was murdered when his plane was shot down in April 1994 on its way back from a peace conference which agreed to re-integrate Tutsis back into Rwanda, an event which sparked the Rwandan genocide itself.
For Macron, he and France had nothing to do with the problems or Rwanda and its militias is like saying that Adolf Hitler was only a bystander in the second world war. Perhaps it is this kind of bare-faced lying which African elites are so tired of when they deal with French leaders?
It is preposterous for Macron to attempt to play such a role at a press conference. This extraordinary French shoulder shrug of abandonment of responsibility, combined with the outdated moral tutelage which most French leaders revel in when dealing with African leaders is appalling on so many levels.
The Rwanda question and who bears responsibility is an important one though as the DRC president firmly points the finger at Macron. Despite Macron himself even admitting that the days of Francafrique being over, few people in Africa itself believe this is a genuine statement and are convinced that France still has strategic interests in the Rwandan regime, despite it being English-speaking and created from a geopolitical shift of a CIA-backed coup in 1994 where the Elysee lost a satellite. Rwanda 1994 was actually the beginning of the end for France’s big role in the continent and yet Macron is still trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the Congolese when he pulls such a shameful stunt as the one at the press conference.