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Est-ce qu’elle vit encore, la Francafrique?

Today in an FP "debate" of sorts, we asked if France is still messing up Africa. Boubacar Boris Diop, a contributor to our Failed States issue, says a resounding Yes. Yves Gounin says No. And today, on Bastille Day, France has it’s own reply: human rights advocates in France say Yes. Nicolas Sarkozy, who invited ...

MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images
MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images

Today in an FP "debate" of sorts, we asked if France is still messing up Africa. Boubacar Boris Diop, a contributor to our Failed States issue, says a resounding Yes. Yves Gounin says No. And today, on Bastille Day, France has it's own reply: human rights advocates in France say Yes. Nicolas Sarkozy, who invited 13 African heads of state to Paris for the festivites, says No.

Well you tell me. Does it portend support if the French president invites a despotic president to Paris for a fête and the honors the dictator's army by allowing them to march in the parade? Whether Sarkozy is actually helping Chadian leader Idriss Déby lock up the opposition, or Paul Biya extend his term indefinitely is kind of beside the point. He's behind these men symbolically, and well, that's all that Africans back home will see. These are exactly the sorts of occassions that perpetuate rumors of French interventionism. And whether true or not, it does make it pretty darn hard for Paris to get anything constructive done on the continent -- at least with any popular support. 

So what do I think? Francafrique lives as long as African believe it does. And if this is any signal, it will be around for a while. 

Today in an FP "debate" of sorts, we asked if France is still messing up Africa. Boubacar Boris Diop, a contributor to our Failed States issue, says a resounding Yes. Yves Gounin says No. And today, on Bastille Day, France has it’s own reply: human rights advocates in France say Yes. Nicolas Sarkozy, who invited 13 African heads of state to Paris for the festivites, says No.

Well you tell me. Does it portend support if the French president invites a despotic president to Paris for a fête and the honors the dictator’s army by allowing them to march in the parade? Whether Sarkozy is actually helping Chadian leader Idriss Déby lock up the opposition, or Paul Biya extend his term indefinitely is kind of beside the point. He’s behind these men symbolically, and well, that’s all that Africans back home will see. These are exactly the sorts of occassions that perpetuate rumors of French interventionism. And whether true or not, it does make it pretty darn hard for Paris to get anything constructive done on the continent — at least with any popular support. 

So what do I think? Francafrique lives as long as African believe it does. And if this is any signal, it will be around for a while. 

Elizabeth Dickinson is a Gulf-based member of the journalism collective Deca.

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