France has been accused of “exercising clandestine control” over French-speaking African countries since they officially obtained freedom.
The French colonial meeting in West Africa was motivated by commercial interests and, perhaps to a lesser degree, a civilizing mission.
At the end of World War II, the colonized peoples of French West Africa voiced their discontent with the colonial system.
In 2021, France still retains the largest military presence in Africa of all the former colonial powers.
France maintains a tight grip on French-speaking Africa, both to serve its interests and maintain a last bastion of imperial prestige.
France is accused of having forced African countries to prioritize French interests and companies in the field of public contracts and calls for tenders.
It is argued that an example of a country where France would still exercise unhealthy control in Africa is Mali, which fell under French colonial rule in 1892 but became fully independent in 1960.
France and Mali still have a strong bond. Both are members of the International Organization of La Francophonie and there are over 120,000 Malians in France.
But, he argued that current events in Mali have once again highlighted the often turbulent relations between the two countries.
After all of its recent turmoil, Mali, currently ruled by a new interim leader, is just starting to recover, albeit very slowly.
However, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the UN and the African Union – and especially France – do not seem in a rush to recognize Assimi Goita, the former acting vice-president. and current leader of Mali’s transition, as a legitimate candidate for the next presidential elections despite an apparently contrary decision by the Constitutional Court of Mali.
The French media have often referred to Colonel Goita as “the boss of the junta”, and “the head of the military junta” and French President Emmanuel Macron has described the May coup, led by Goita, as a “coup d’etat”. in the process ”.
Tensions between the two countries escalated when Mali recently summoned the French ambassador to the country to express its “outrage” at President Macron’s recent criticism of the country’s government.
It came after President Macron suggested the government of Mali was “not even really one” – because of Goita’s coup in Mali in May. The war of words continued when President Macron called on the ruling army in Mali to restore state authority in large areas of the country that he said had been abandoned in the face of the armed uprising.
Colonel Goita installed a civilian-led interim government after the first coup in August last year. But he then deposed the leaders of this government last May during a second coup.
It is also part of a context of violence in the Sahel, a strip of arid land bordering the southern edge of the Sahara Desert, which has intensified in recent years despite the presence of thousands of UN, regional and Western troops.
The current political changes in Mali have attracted a lot of international attention. But, according to Fernando Cabrita, questions of a different kind must also be addressed.
Fernando Cabrita is a Portuguese lawyer, expert in international law, co-founder of the law firm SOCIEDADE DE ADVOGADOS. Fernando Cabrita has written for several regional, national and foreign newspapers and has extensive experience in international civil law.
He argues that this includes asking what is the future of the country in terms of peace and security, what political decisions will strengthen the position of Mali in general and the position of its current interim leader in particular.
In an interview with this website, Cabrita gave his assessment of recent events in this West African country, particularly from a judicial point of view.
He recalls that in May 2021, the president of the Malian transition, Bah Ndaw, and his prime minister, Moctar Ouane, were arrested by members of the armed forces, Goita, then vice-president, suspecting them of sabotaging the process. of transition (allegedly under French influence).
Bah Ndaw and Moctar Ouane have resigned and power has passed to Goita, a young Malian leader, who shares what is seen as a strong anti-French sentiment that has been mounting in Mali for a long time.
Cabrita says that such a change in Mali’s political landscape is seen as “unpleasant” for France, Mali’s longtime “partner” and its former colonial master.
He asserts that “France has secretly exercised control over French-speaking African countries since they officially obtained freedom.”
He cites France’s Operation Barkhane as a way for Paris to maintain “a significant military force” in the region.
In June, Paris began to reorganize its forces deployed in the Sahel as part of Operation Barkhane, including withdrawing from its northernmost bases in Mali at Kidal, Timbuktu and Tessalit. The total number in the region is expected to increase from 5,000 today to 2,500 and 3,000 by 2023.
Cabrita says that now that Barkhane is transformed into a smaller mission, Paris is “desperate to consolidate its influence through political means”.
Using the media, he says that some Western countries, led by France, have tried to dilute Colonel Goïta’s political power by portraying him as an “illegitimate” or unskilled leader.
However, according to Cabrita, such attacks are baseless.
He says the Transition Charter, signed in September 2020, which Cabrita says is often used to undermine Goita’s credentials, “cannot be recognized as a document having any legal force because it was adopted with a certain number of serious irregularities ”.
He said: “The charter contravenes the constitution of Mali and it has not been ratified by appropriate instruments. As such, it is the decisions taken by the Constitutional Court that must take precedence over all others. “
On May 28, 2021, the Constitutional Court of Mali declared Colonel Goïta head of state and president of the transition period, making him the de jure head of the country.
Another factor that supports Goita’s legitimacy, says Cabrita, is the fact that the national community and international actors recognize him (Goita) as the representative of Mali.
According to recent opinion polls, Goita’s rating among the Malian public is on the rise, with people endorsing his determination to end the ongoing violence in the country and hold democratic elections according to the agreed timetable.
Cabrita says: “Goita’s popularity among the people makes him the most suitable candidate for the post of President of the country.
But will Goita be eligible to participate in the next presidential elections, scheduled for February? Cabrita insists that he be allowed to stand up.
“Even if Article 9 of the Charter prohibits the President of the transitional period and the Deputy from participating in the presidential and legislative elections which will be held during the end of the transitional period, the nullity of this document and its contradictions internal authorities leave all decisions to the Constitutional Court.
“Due to the fact that the Transitional Charter is an unconstitutional document, its provisions cannot restrict the civil rights of anyone, including Goita. “
The Constitution of Mali, which dates from 199 and continues to be applied in the country, defines the procedures, conditions and the nomination of candidates for presidential elections.
Cabrita added: “Article 31 of the constitution stipulates that each candidate for the post of President of the Republic must be a Malian citizen of origin and benefit from all his civil and political rights. So, on the basis of this (i.e. the constitution), Goïta has the right to stand as a candidate in the presidential elections in Mali.
“If he is allowed to run for president, it will mark the start of a new chapter for all francophone African countries, not just Mali.”