Anti-French protests are sweeping many countries in Africa. Who is challenging Paris’s policies on the continent and why?
Stop the convoy
In November 2021, the French military command decided to move military reinforcements to Gao, Mali. In that country, France is conducting the military operation “Barkhan,” ostensibly aimed at terrorists operating in the region. However, the attempt to move 60 heavy trucks led to mass protests. The convoy was to go from the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire through Burkina Faso and Niger to Mali.
As a result, there were protest rallies in Burkina Faso in every town, which the French military convoy passed through. Coalition of African Patriots of Burkina Faso (Copa-BF) was the main force organizing the protests, in which thousands of people participated.
After the convoy succeeded in crossing into Niger on November 27, there were demonstrations in western Niger at Téra. The French military and accompanying gendarmes used weapons and gas to disperse the demonstrators. Two people died in the end.
French soldiers also wounded several people during protests in Burkina Faso.
The demonstrators shouted slogans such as “Down with France” and accused Paris of supporting terrorism in Africa.
Protests in Ouagadougou
Simultaneously with those against the French convoy, there were also protests in Burkina Faso against the security policy of the government. Protesters are unhappy that the country’s authorities and the French troops supporting them cannot do anything about the deteriorating security situation. The reason for the protests was another terrorist action. November 14, 2021 On November 14, 2021, there was a terrorist attack in the north of the country that killed 32 people. The terrorist attack resulted in more than 50 deaths.
Protesters demanded the resignation of the country’s pro-French president Roch Kabore. The country’s authorities blocked mobile Internet for a week amid numerous protests demanding better supplies for the army and the withdrawal of the French contingent from Burkina Faso at the end of November. That measure, however, did not stop the protesters.
Security forces used tear gas against protesters throwing rocks and building barricades in the streets in downtown Ouagadougou. Protesters in Burkina Faso oppose the current authorities – which are allied with France – and say they support the military. In 2020-2021, the military has already overthrown leaders in two neighboring countries in Mali and Guinea.
Mali: people and government against France
5,100 French troops are deployed in the Sahel countries. The most problematic situation is in the cross-border area of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. France claims that its presence is aimed at preventing the spread of terrorism. However, the French military presence does not in fact eradicate the terrorist threat. For example, the Malian authorities (Prime Minister Choguel Kokalla Maiga) recently accused France of supporting terrorism in the country.
In Bamako, capital of Mali, there are regular protests against the French military presence in the country. In September 2021, a large-scale rally was held, where the leaders of pan-Africanist movements, led by Kemi Seba, one of the most famous politicians advocating an end to the neo-colonial domination of France on the continent, held speeches.
In October 2021, Kemi Seba met with Mamady Doumbunya, leader of the military coup in Guinea. This suggests that the new regime in Guinea will also play on the field of struggle against the legacy of French colonialism.
CAR: Against the UN mission and France
In the CAR at the end of November, members of the social movement I kè woussou na Bêafrika demanded the withdrawal of UN Resolution 26605 extending the mandate of UN peacekeepers in the Central African Republic. According to the activists, the extension of the mandate of peacekeepers is used by France to destabilize the situation in the CAR.
Dissatisfied with the actions of the foreign contingent, members of a social movement gathered outside the headquarters of UN peacekeepers in Bangui. The protesters demanded the cancellation of the mandate and the immediate withdrawal of the French military, which are accused of preparing a coup d’état.
Previously, rallies against UN peacekeepers from the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) have been repeatedly held in the CAR.
Residents of the CAR evaluate the work of the UN mission as ineffective. Some accuse the peacekeepers of helping the militants. The example of the CAR, where the authorities, with the support of Russian instructors, were able to stop the offensive of pro-French rebels this year, inspires other African countries and pan-Africanists who see Russia as an alternative to France.
#NoMore to interventions
At the end of November, the #NoMore movement was announced loudly. It was created by Ethiopian and Eritrean activists, including former Al Jazeera and CBS journalist Hermela Aregawi, who oppose Western interference in the affairs of these countries and Western support for the separatists in Tigray.
Protests under the slogan #NoMore or the similar French slogan #PasPlus took place in Ethiopia, Mali, Chad, Niger. Most of them concerned the position of the U.S. and its allies on the civil war in Ethiopia. But in French-speaking countries, protesters also spoke out against French influence in their countries. Pan-African activists promoted the slogan on Twitter.
Discontent with France’s policies is growing in Africa. France, which is trying to keep its former colonies in its orbit of influence, has been severely criticized both by the new patriotic elites (who want to get rid of pro-French kleptocrats) and by ordinary people. African young intellectuals sympathize with pan-Africanism, which advocates the sovereignty of African nations. The behavior of President Macron, who has repeatedly demonstrated colonialist arrogance toward Africans, also plays a negative role.
Africans perceive France as a country that siphons off resources and money, which despite all promises to abolish the CFA franc maintains this means of controlling the finances of former colonies. Corrupt individuals and dictators who act in the interests of Paris find refuge in France. The regional association Ecowas is seen as an instrument of French influence.
Anti-French protests demonstrate the collapse of French hegemony. Cooperation with France is no longer attractive in the eyes of the African population. Instead, Africans support close cooperation with Turkey, China and Russia.