when will africa belong to africans?

December 3, 2018
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We’re all grown enough to now know that anti-Blackness is not some natural manifestation of an ingrained pecking order. We’re done with all that pie-in-the-sky racism. Colonization is no one’s fault but the colonizer, who, to this day, considers the notion of accountability for the tyranny as absurd. Let’s take, for instance, France, with its young leader Emmanuele Macron, who is proof that youth is wasted on the young in the sense of a young European president espousing some old-school racist bullshit.

I don’t have to tell you that the French colonized a considerable amount of the African continent (and some of the US as well). For a country that has never won a war, the French secured their legacy by imposing themselves on some of the most resource-rich countries on the African continent. Even though the continent is mostly independent now, France never really left Africa and it is clear that, as long as there is money to made, it doesn’t intend to.

To this day, up to 14 African countries still pay colonial tax to France, buffering the extravagance associated with everything French and answering many questions about how the French economy has managed to stay afloat with wine, croissants and French elitism to support it. This colonial debt is to be paid by these countries as a sort of “tax” for all the amenities the French built to make themselves comfortable while looting these African countries of their resources.

The French are particularly violent about “their” shit. Sékou Touré, Guinea’s first democratically elected president, tried to instill his country’s earnest independence by removing Guinea from colonial rule in 1958 and was met with a vindictive force that would pave the way for France’s continued exploitation on the African continent. The French elite responded by ransacking the country, destroying any and all institutions that were considered “benefits of colonization.” Schools, administration buildings, nurseries, farming equipment, cars, books and more were destroyed if they could not be shipped back to France — a debt paid by Africans for decades if not of subjugation.

Sekou Toure, Cover Time Magazine, Feb. 16, 1959

This brings us back to Macron. When asked about the possibility of Africa receiving its own version of a Marshall Plan ($100 billion dedicated to the rebuilding of Western European countries after WWII) at the G20 summit in June, the French president responded by claiming Africa’s issues were “civilizational,” which is essentially the racist-white-people-in-power way of saying that Africans and their specific way of life were solely to blame for the continent’s ills. Macron told a reporter at the summit, “The challenge of Africa is completely different, it is much deeper. It is civilizational today. Failing states, complex democratic transitions, the demographic transition.” He later said, “One of the essential challenges of Africa … is that in some countries today, seven or eight children [are] born to each woman.”

I’m here to call bullshit. First of all, Macron is only spewing that racist vitriol because European elites are afraid of the growing influx of African migrants compared to the dwindling birthrate faced by Europe. Perhaps if Africans were actually benefitting from African resources, the population would be more educated with access to the kind of healthcare that might help to decrease the expanding birthrate, but that is a response to a racist assertion packaged as a neutral summary of Africa’s issues. It’s not.

Africans are responsible for our own development and a part of that responsibility is acknowledging how we got here and what an ingrained and nefarious power imbalance continues to do to the continent. Macron sits at the head of a government that has systematically had any independent-thinking African leader removed by a coup. For instance, Togo leader Sylvanus Olympio refused to sign a colonization continuation treaty set by then French president Charles De Gaulle, and instead asked that he pay a debt for Togo’s “benefits of colonization.” The debt would have amounted to 40% of Togo’s GDP in 1963 so Olympia opted to remove the FCFA currency used by African colonies of France.

On January 13th, 1963, just three days after Togo started printing its own money, Togo’s first democratic leader was assassinated by Etienne Gnassingbe, an ex French Foreign Legionnaire army sergeant who allegedly received a bounty of $612 million. The same thing would take place in Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin and Central African Republic (now Congo). Of the 68 coups that would take place over the last half-century or so, just under 60% of them would take place in Francophone Africa. How were any of these countries meant to grow, evolve and prosper when every democratically elected leader with the audacity to want their country free of French tyranny, is removed by coup?

In March 2008, former French President Jacques Chirac said something that would explain French behavior in Africa succinctly: “Without Africa, France will slide down into the rank of a third [world] power.” Developed nations are terrified of joining the developing class of countries that serve as resource-fodder for strong economies but the story of how developing countries are kept in a deliberate holding pattern by colonial powers is swept under the rug and replaced by stories about the “civilizational” hurdles Africans have to face. France does not want to pay what it owes to Francophone African countries because it owes a lot; it’s almost understandable that the French would turn to violence in lieu of taking responsibility for their tyranny and showing Africa the- no, its money.

It’s easy to believe that Africa brought this on itself but remember who writes history. Remember who landed on the continent and threw it into a quagmire of violence, exploitation and darkness. “We prefer freedom in poverty to opulence in slavery,” said Sékou Touré. A word. Now, however, we want retributive justice. We want our continent back.