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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Reply To Comment On Post About France In West Africa

I do not receive many comments on my posts.  I understand that leaving a comment is not necessarily an easy thing to do.  However, I did receive a comment about my "France in Africa" post.  The comment I received is as follows (in its entirety):

Dear Eric, thanks for taking your tine to educate what I hope is a predominantly American public about the French love affair with West Africa. However I am sure you have never spoken to West Africans in order ti understand their real feelings. You fail to analyse how for example the use of the cfa raised serious issues about independence, and how most of the African countries who have, and continue to experience conflict are in fact former french colonies. You seem to be extolling the values of colonialism in a manner that would hurt many of those who continue to experience it.
I am surprised by your lack of knowledge about

I assume the person writing the post was unable to complete their comment because of the vagaries of the process.  Again, its not always easy responding to a blog post (unfortunately).  I will respond to this comment, one point at a time.  The first point the author makes is "I'm sure you have never spoken to West Africans in order to understand their real feelings".  People love to make assumptions.  I have spoken to west Africans.  In fact, I spoke to a Malian physician earlier today.  I have family living in Bamako and Abidjan and adopted cousins from Cote d'Ivoire.  I lived in west Africa for a number of years.  While its true that some people do not agree with the Banc de France guaranteeing the currency of a number of African countries, most analysts see it as a very generous gesture.  Most importantly, any west African country that wishes to remove itself from the franc tit can do so.  The next comment, "most African countries who have, and continue to experience conflict are in fact former French colonies".  True, a number of former French colonies have experienced conflict (Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea and Rwanda come to mind), but the writer used the word "continue".  Cote d'Ivoire is in the midst of a major peacetime economic boom, Rwanda is at peace, as is Guinea.  Even Burkina Faso only had to suffer through one day of violent demonstrations.  In fact, as I write this, only Mali is dealing with current conflict, because of the recent re-emergence of Al-Qaeda in the north (but the French Army is on the spot, keeping Malians safe and disposing of Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb just as they did in 2013).  Since the writer brought up the issue of conflict, its difficult to find any country on the continent that has not suffered through a civil war, coup, or revolution since the 1960s.  So the blame has to fall on the Brits, Portuguese, Spanish, Belgians and the French.  Which brings me to the most important point I need to make.  I did not write the post to address the historic significance of colonialism.  I'm not the person for that job.  The purpose of my post was to provide an update on French interaction and military activity in west Africa.

I do not "extoll the values" of colonialism.  I'm French, and I appreciate the fact that I can get a croissant and a French daily newspaper in Abidjan.  In the post, I made the point that regardless of the little pieces of France that I can access when visiting Port Gentil, Libreville, N'Djamena, Lome, or Kigali, at the end of the day Africa is Africa.  Bobo Dioulasso, Yamousoukro and Mopti are African communities, and I when I'm in Africa, I have no wish to be anywhere else.  The last sentence in the post mentioned "foregiveness".  During the time of colonies, many Europeans were guilty of acts which absolutely require some level of foregiveness.  The good news is that today no country in Africa is a colony.  But religious extremists are sitting on the doorstep, waiting to be invited inside.  I'm grateful that the French Army is willing to risk the lives of its soldiers to make sure it doesn't happen in Mali.   

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