Africa – France: There is an ontological problem rather than a simple discursive misunderstanding-Bakary Sambe



The weekly column of the Timbuktu Institute – African center for Peace Studies is devoted this week to the theme: “Europe-Africa: Misunderstood mutations” in the context of French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent speech at the annual Ambassadors’ Conference.

In this latest outing, widely commented on on the continent, Macron insisted on the need to resolve the current crisis in Niger, if necessary through a military solution, and on maintaining the French Ambassador in Niamey, despite some criticism of the “inconsistencies of positions” taken by Paris on the various coups d’états that have recently taken place in the region.

In the background, there is the debate on a “real understanding of the stakes” on the part of international partners in the region, in a context where young people are developing an increasingly anti-establishment and sovereignist discourse. Dr. Bakary Sambe discusses these issues in an interview with Sana Yassari, Medi1TV- Afrique.

Dr. Bakary Sambe, in your various speeches since the crisis in Mali, Burkina Faso and, more recently, Niger, you have put forward the idea that certain European partners have not taken the measure of the changes taking place on the continent, to the detriment of their image and the perception that African youth are developing of relations between Europe, and France in particular, and Africa. Why do you think this persistent misunderstanding persists?

In my opinion, Europe, which has always relied on France when it comes to the Sahel and West Africa, has not been able to integrate what Kenneth Waltz calls the distribution of capabilities as an ordering element in international relations. Capabilities in terms of military, political and economic power are no longer concentrated in one group, but spread across a large number of states.

On the one hand, this has given rise to a desire for sovereignty, which is increasingly seen as a guiding principle in today’s international relations. And Africa has not been spared by this wave, which can be seen in the growing enthusiasm for the BRICS, for example.
On the other hand, there is a globalized virtual public space where ideas are circulating that transcend political borders and the material fences of states.

African young people are also imbued with these ideas, and their actions and mobilizations are helping to shape public opinion by introducing the desire for sovereignty that today spares no region of the world.

The latest speech by the French President, Emmanuel Macron, seems to raise questions about the extent of this misunderstanding and the impression that France, or at least the political elite, has not yet integrated the new mindset of African youth. How do you analyze this?

President Emmanuel Macron seems to have heard the voices of African youth without really listening to them. One is increasingly tempted to believe in a common thread that has been fairly consistent in the conceptual fabric of Africa in the French political unconscious, across generations and political currents of both Left and Right, and perhaps even up to the present day, when the French political space is becoming increasingly illegible in the age of Macronism.

I’d even be tempted to say, from Hugo to Sarkozy with the Dakar speech, which was actually more of a Parisian speech. So I believe that beyond a change in discourse, we need a change in our conception of Africa. So it’s more an ontological problem than a discursive misunderstanding. With this in mind, I think that the simple paradigm shift of no longer considering Africa as “property”, but as a land to be conquered and a soft power market to be seduced, would be an excellent new departure.

But sometimes, in French-speaking Africa, we have the impression that it’s difficult to suggest to our French partners that we break with the Enlightenment. And yet, even if the Enlightenment enlightened the world beyond France for a time, it then dazzled France, especially in its vision of the dark continent, which, alas, is struggling to evolve.

Writer : Bakary Sambe


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