Thursday, February 4, 2010

French neo-colonialism and the pax franca

Someone with the same name as me has an article in the London Review of Books about France's historical (and waning) influence in Africa. It starts out by talking about France's dreams of a post-colonial empire in la Françafrique:

Gaulle envisaged the new arrangement as a ‘French system where everyone plays his part’. It was to be based on elite co-optation, within what the anthropologist Jean-Pierre Dozon calls the ‘Franco-African state’. This was not a formula involving a series of relationships between the erstwhile colonial power on the one hand, and the newly independent states on the other, but a unitary Jacobin entity, with big brothers and smaller brothers governing and an unmistakeable centre of power, Paris.

Surprisingly (or not?), this kept the violence down:

The most impressive aspect of the French military shield was its breadth: it wasn’t simply a protection for lackeys and minor potentates. Between 1960 and 1990, 40,000 people are believed to have died as a result of internecine violence in French Africa, half of them in Chad; by comparison, roughly two million died in former British Africa, another two million in former Belgian Africa, 1.2 million in the former Portuguese colonies and another million in the residual category that includes Ethiopia, Somalia, Liberia and Equatorial Guinea. A different indicator, which corrects for demographic imbalances, confirms the value of the pax franca: the number of ‘victims of repression or massacres’ is put at 35 per 10,000 inhabitants in ex-French Africa, 790 in postcolonial Anglophone Africa, 3000 in the Belgian Congo, Rwanda and Burundi, and a staggering 4000 in the Portuguese colonies, which didn’t achieve independence until the mid-1970s.

To ruin the ending, French involvement and the relative peace end after the fall of the Berlin wall.

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