It was a great scene with the golden winter sun setting on palm trees and yellow sandstone. Emmanuel Macron And his host, Cyril Ramafosa of South Africa, descended the red carpet of union buildings in Pretoria as Marseilles echoed in the fresh air.
The historical situation was appropriate. Since taking office in 2017, the French president has sought a comprehensive reorganization of the country’s national strategy, relations and interventions. Africa. He has chosen a very contemporary way of doing this: by re-examining the past.
In Africa, he is not alone in the importance of history. Last week, Germany agreed to pay 1.1 billion euros (40 940 million) to Namibia. As officially acknowledged the killing of tens of thousands of Hierro and Nama people by the colonizers at the beginning of the 20th century – a gesture of reconciliation, but not legal reparation, because what Berlin now calls “genocide.”
Others consider the history of the continent to be important and useful today. China, which has made extensive efforts to expand its influence throughout Africa, systematically highlights the bloody past of Western colonial powers on the continent. Russia has deliberately cited Cold War relations and myths and told countries like Angola that previous ties were strong.
Britain has tried to cite imperial history through the Commonwealth, in a somewhat optimistic belief that the leaders and citizens of the former colonies recall decades of exploitative and sometimes brutal domination. It does not seem to have had much success so far. Early efforts to bring Zimbabwe back to the Commonwealth began, and the government recently unveiled the formerly turbulent British colony A statue in the center of the capital, Harare, From a respected spiritual leader who resisted the subjugation of Cecil Rhodes and his British company in South Africa.
“It ‘s true France It has a complex history in Africa. Said Hero Breville, a member of the French parliament who accompanied Macron. “Sometimes from happiness, from family, wealth from cultural exchanges and other exchanges, but also more complex, deeper, heavier. And we have to know our bad deeds, our mistakes … This is not because we consider ourselves “It is only a matter of being honest with ourselves and others who have experienced the consequences of our actions.”
On Thursday, the President of France Spent a day in Rwanda, The former Belgian colony has long accused the French government of participating in the 1994 assassination of some 800,000 Tutsi leaders.
In Kigali, Macron apologized and spoke of the terrible responsibility of the French after standing by a genocidal regime for so long – although he said it had the best of intentions. This lecture is based on the findings of a French report Historians and archives had unprecedented access to important French government archives. Macron’s remarks, while not an apology, were enough to appease Paul Kagame, who has been in power in Rwanda for 27 years and is one of the continent’s most influential leaders.
“Recognizing our past mistakes [in Africa], We can better prepare our future there. “Breville, an orphan evacuated by the French army,” he said Rwanda Growing up in France, another advantage is preventing competitors such as Russia or China from trying to “instrumentalize and exploit” this history.
In a similar historical investigation, crimes committed by French authorities, police and the military were investigated In Algeria During the colonial and bloody war of independence there. Steps have now been taken to restore at least some of the French museums looted from Africa.
Macron was inconsistent but seemed to recognize the importance of the past in creating new opportunities to engage with Africa’s young population, said Mohamed Diata, an ISS analyst in Pretoria.
“There is a bit of a movement and it is encouraging.” France’s principle of the ultimate guide is to support and advance its interests, but that will not change, but the way things are done. “” France’s relationship with Africa … can not. Separate from France’s treatment of its colonial past in France. How France treats its African immigrant population in France. There is a past that needs to be addressed in a proper way. “
But some aspects of the past can also be usefully overlooked. Macron’s new strategy sees the continent as a very diverse whole, not divided by old empires or languages, and with opportunities for political or economic superiority. Outside the traditional “FrançAfrique”. Analysts point out that South Africa, a former British monarchy where English is the main language of trade and administration, is not a traditional partner of Paris.
“France recognizes that there is an advantage in non-French areas of Africa that does not stop FrançAfrique, and thus raises more suspicions,” said Alex Vince, Africa Program Director at Chatham. The house “has historical ties with the former colonies, but it is not where its business generates revenue and generates revenue.”
Critics say many are still familiar with French intervention. Security, arms sales and resource exploitation are still very high. Last month, Macron flew to the funeral of Idriss Dubai, Chad’s pioneering dictator and France’s main ally for decades, to make it clear to local rebels that Dubai’s son and his chosen successor is not pro-French. Then there is the bloody intervention in Mali, where French troops have been trying for a decade to help local forces suppress Islamist extremism without success.
that in South AfricaSuch reminders were kept far removed from past priorities not so long ago, both symbolically and physically. Instead, Macron focused on gaining hearts, minds and contracts with offers of help, supporting vaccine production in Africa, and simple business relationships.
“There are always people who say it’s too little, it’s too late,” said Breville, hours before flying with the president, who returned to Paris on Saturday. “But there is a whole generation in Africa that wants to change its relationship with France. In politics, you have to be accountable to reality.”
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