Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Confused ...

It's not just me; it's 'friends' on twitter too ...

Friends don't understand the French involvement in W.Africa, in the past during independance and the current situation.  Living here & travelling regulary gives me an insight into how the politics & economics of the region works.  I was personally shocked by a pre-independance map I had the privilege to see, no countries were marked, just a great expanse of French territory with Nigeria & Ghana outlined in pink.

So, France seems to be very much involved in current economic affairs in Cote d'Ivoire as well as being dual spear-heads on the assault against Ghaddafi.  Russia & China vetoed out of both UN sanctions ... Russia had already signed via Gazprom (?national energy company) with Gbagbo; did they also come to an agreement with Libya?  My head is spinning!

That's the first part of my confusion ...

The second involves a young boy aged 15 now; he's at school, 'college' in Cote d'Ivoire who came online to talk to me after knowing me for 5yrs+.  When I quizzed him about being in a cyber cafe rather than at college, he told me that his teacher died yesterday.

Later I chatted to the director of the children's centre he lives in to find that the FRCI had killed his teacher.  I am confused.  I thought Cote d'Ivoire was calm now without any problems and certainly not government forces killing people.  Maybe I don't have the whole story, but it's worrying ..

France is now firmly re-implanted in Cote d'Ivoire.  I'm sure Sarkozy would like to be elsewhere in Africa particularly W.Africa.  The French left as the English did but the difference being that they left taking a lot of infrastructure & blue prints with them upon independence.  It's left W.Africa needy for French assistance.  This might explain why there is an influx of W.African French in France as a tweeter reminded me.  The fact that the infrastructure was torn out didn't leave much for those who wanted to re-build the country.

I hope that the same will not be said in the near future in Cote d'Ivoire if it all goes wrong; however the First Lady is French ... time will tell.  Having spoken to French special forces posted there during the crisis, I do wonder!

Yako mes amis

1 comment:

Richard Trillo said...

A few pointers that might help to ease the confusion:

1885: the Berlin Conference divided Africa among the great powers of the time, with Britain and France getting the largest spoils and King Leopold of Belgium being given most of the Congo basin as his private estate.

So that explains the pre-independence map you saw. France got most of West Africa, apart from The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Nigeria, which became part of the British Empire, and a bit of Guinea which was to be ruled by Portugal.

France was always very hands-on, thought it had a "mission to civilize", and intended its overseas possessions to stay as France and their people to "aspire" to ultimately becoming French citizens. Britain was much more hands-off, creating local chiefs, even where there were none, to do the ruling for them.

In Côte d'Ivoire, there was violent "pacification" of many communities who refused French rule, with the worst case being the Abé, around Agboville in 1910, many of whose men were press-ganged into constructing the railway. C d'I was France's biggest prize in West Africa and newly introduced coffee and cocoa had created some wealthy local farmers by WWII.

In the end, like most of the local French leaders in West Africa, Houphouët-Boigny signed up to close cooperation with France as the price of painless independence, and personal kudos and wealth. Only Sékou Touré in Guinea answered Non to General de Gaulle's famous Oui ou Non? question posed to French African territories, and Guinea's infrastructure was deliberately sabotaged as a result. C d'I's infrastructure was not torn out, far from it, and the first 20 years of independence were economically boom years. But that was under the H-B dictatorship, and it was all crumbling long before he died in 1993.

C d'I has always been deeply divided because of the French invasion. The violence of the early 20th century pitted the grandfathers of people alive today against each other - and people have long memories.