Home » Burkina Faso is the mirror of French contradictions in Africa – Pierre Haski

Burkina Faso is the mirror of French contradictions in Africa – Pierre Haski

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Burkina Faso is the mirror of French contradictions in Africa – Pierre Haski

04 October 2022 09:41

After Bamako, Ouagadougou. History repeats itself: in a context marked by internal problems and upheavals in the ranks of unstable military regimes, France finds itself targeted. Meanwhile, the Russian flags make their appearance.

On 2 October, in Ouagadougou, in the midst of a coup, the crowd attacked the French embassy and institute of culture. According to a rumor, the dismissed president, Lieutenant Colonel Damiba, would have been placed under the protection of Paris. The Elysée immediately denied it, but inflaming a crowd is much easier than calming it down.

Especially if a Burkinabé soldier starts waving a Russian flag, as revealed in a video shot during the riots. From the Donbass to the Sahel, the images merge and intertwine, and deserve reflection.

Half-count with the past
A simple analysis would be to argue that Russia has engaged in a part of Africa in an operation hostile to France. This reality exists: Russian disinformation in French-speaking Africa has been abundantly documented. But this is not enough to justify what is happening in Ouagadougou and elsewhere.

Likewise, evoking only the French colonial heritage is not enough and could even be misleading if we want to find the reasons why France often turns into a scapegoat for the anger of some young Africans.

There is a great African illusion about Moscow’s goals in Africa

This reading, in fact, does not allow us to understand why France was welcomed as a lifeline in Mali after the military intervention in January 2013, and then left the country nine years later, accused of all the problems. Recently, at the United Nations, France was even accused of collusion with jihadist groups, the pinnacle if we consider the number of French soldiers killed in combat.

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The answer lies in part in the difficulty faced by France in leaving behind the paternalistic attitude that has characterized postcolonial relations and which makes it appear as co-responsible for endemic problems. In Paris they seem not to understand this reality.

For its part, Russia continued to replace France whenever it had the opportunity. This is the case in Mali, where the mercenaries of the Wagner group operate alongside the Malian forces in place of the French soldiers of the Barkhane operation. In Burkina Faso, the arrival of Wagner’s men seems imminent.

But at the same time there is a great African illusion about Moscow’s goals in Africa. Wagner’s balance sheet in the Central African Republic (where the group is omnipresent) or in Mali is tainted by extortion against civilians and mining predation. The pressure from jihadist groups, with their massacre of massacres, has grown both in Mali and in Burkina Faso.


The fact remains that France has an obligation to review its African policy, with or without Russia. Paradoxically, French President Emmanuel Macron had begun his mandate with a trip to Ouagadougou, where he had outlined such a path. But in the end he didn’t go through with it, and this is incomprehensible to the young people of Bamako or Ouagadougou.

The French contradictions are evident: Paris “covers” the unconstitutional succession in Chad and adapts to the end of the unhealthy and nepotistic regime in Cameroon, but sanctions the various coups in Mali. Consequently, the former colonial power becomes the ideal culprit of the inability of states to overcome their problems, a boon to all those who feed on the misfortunes of the peoples.

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(Translation by Andrea Sparacino)

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