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France, Africa: Suitcases Filled with Cash Expose the Françafrique Connection

In the wake of the Dominique Strauss Kahn scandal, a new furore is now rocking France and the upcoming 2012 French presidential campaign.

Robert Bourgi, a shady lawyer and advisor for “African affairs” has confessed [fr] to French media he acted for years as a go-between for French politicians and Francophone Africa heads of states, delivering approximatively $20 million in cash to former President Chirac, former Minister of Foreign Affairs Dominique de Villepin, and extreme-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, to finance past election campaigns.

Screen shot of Lawyer R. Bourgi on BFM TV

Screen shot of Lawyer R. Bourgi on BFM TV

“Not exactly breaking news”

Despite the storm of denials and libel suits, Mwona Mboka in Congo echoed a widely shared feeling [fr], in France and in Africa:

Ce n’est pas un scoop, tout le monde le sait. Il a tout simplement oublié de nous révéler le montant des commissions qu’il prenait au passage.

This is not exactly breaking news because everyone knew this. He only omitted to reveal the amount of the commissions he siphonned from those deals for himself.

Françafrique, a generic name for French neocolonialism and the plundering of  natural resources in its former colonies, has been investigated  for years, though books, articles and documentaries (video). However, this is the first time that a key player of  the “Françafrique” network, on a first-name basis with African presidents, have revealed insider information.

His confession reads like a mafia-film script: wads of cash stuffed in suitcases or even in African drums delivered to the Elysee Palace, codenames such as “Mamadou” for Minister De villepin, and “Daddy” for late Gabonese President Omar Bongo.

The cast of alleged funders, all African presidents, include: the late Omar Bongo in Gabon, Blaise Compaoré in Burkina Faso, Laurent Gbagbo in Cote d'Ivoire, President Wade and his son Karim in Senegal, Denis Sassou Nguesso in the Republic of Congo, and even President of Equatorial Guinea, a former Spanish colony, Teodoro Obiang.

A close aide of ex President Gbagbo [fr] in Côte d'Ivoire has confirmed Bourgi's allegations.

'50 years of Françafrique is enough!' - Demonstration poster (2010) from website Survie.org

'50 years of Françafrique is enough!' – Demonstration poster (2010) from website Survie.org

Reactions from African blogospheres

Thousand of comments and reactions have flooded African blogospheres. In the Republic of Congo, an oil-rich country riled with poverty, 216 Congolese expressed on Mwinda.com [fr] the anger, humiliation and exasperation shared by netizen accross Francophone Africa.

René Mavoungou Pambou [fr]:

Voilà qu’on nous flanque en plein visage les méfaits ou crimes dont est capable la prétendue douce France, berceau des droits de l’homme.

And now, they throw in our faces the misdeeds or crimes that the so-called “Sweet France', the craddle of human rights, is capable of.

Mouk writes [fr]:

tant que la France sera en Afrique, il n y aura ni paix ni développement. la classe politique française étant l'une des plus prostituées au monde, la démocratie et les libertés pour les africains ne la concernent pas.

As long as France will be in Africa, there will be no peace or development. France political clique being one of the most prostituted in the world, they are not concerned with democracy and freedoms for Africans.

Ata Ndele, on the same comment thread, is thinking ahead [fr]:

Les spécialistes africains du droit peuvent-ils nous dire si nous pouvons , nous aussi, porter plainte en tant que partie civile ?

Could African law specialists tell us if it is possible for us  to file a civil suit  as well?

A number of commentators, like Yacobi, turn their anger toward their leaders [fr]:

Vous hommes politiques africains, commencez à mieux traiter vos peuples, les blancs vont vous regarder différemment.

African politicians, start treating your people better, and white men will look at you differently.

Mame Diop, on his Facebook page [fr], links the money sent to France and the widespread underdevelopment:

Combien de mères vont encore mourir ce soir en donnant la vie, faute de dispensaire, d'ambulances, de routes praticables, de médecins! Combien? [...] Débarrassons nous de cette bande de macaques!!!

How many mothers will die tonight while giving birth, for lack of clinics, of ambulances, of tar roads, of doctors? How many? [...] Let's get rid of this bunch of monkeys !!!
'When will we quit?' - Anti-Françafrique poster

'When will we quit?' – Anti-Françafrique poster

In Senegal, Seneweb [fr] site is bursting with reactions to the alleged implication of President Wade and his son, as the 2012 presidential election looms:

Lune: Je crois que laisser une minute de plus Abdoulaye Wade et sa maudite famille à la tete de notre pays releverait de la lacheté

Lune: I think that letting Abdoulaye Wade and his darn family for another minute at the head of our country would be a show of cowardice.

Mooo [fr]:

je pense que le temps est venu de limiter nos relations avec ces puissances occidentales voyous qui nous ont maintenu dans la pauvreté,les guerres civiles,les dictatures pendant des siècles.Le moment est venu pour l'Afrique de s'ouvrir aux autres puissances et pays émergents tels:La Chine,Le Japon,le Brésil et certains pays arabes.Nos relations d'avec les puissances occidentales pendant des siècles ne nous valu que tristesse et misère.

I think the time has come to minimize our relationship with those Western rogue states, they maintained us in poverty, civil wars, dictatures, for centuries. The time has come for Africa to open itself to other powers and emerging countries, such as China, Japan, Brazil, and some Arab countries. Our relationships with Western countries, for centuries, have brought us nothing but misery and poverty.

Senegalese Ahmadou Fall thinks it is already the case [fr] on Afrique en ligne:

Le choix des dirigeants (chefs d'États) n'est plus une prérogative de la France au gré de ses intérêts et de sa stratégie géopolitique.La France qui reçoit ces valises de la honte, remplies de billets destinés au financement occulte de partis politiques est cette même France qui perd sa place dans cette Afrique qui s'oriente vers d'autres partenaires…Le Rwanda de Paul Kagame l'illustre assez bien avec la destitution du français comme langue officielle, au profit de l'anglais. La percée des pays asiatiques en lieu et place des anciennes puissances coloniales montre qu'il faut plus que jamais changer d'attitude et de stratégie…

Picking out heads of states according to its interests and its geopolitical strategy is no longer a prerogative of France. France, with these suitcases of shame, filled with banknotes to secretly fund its political parties, is the same France that loses its influence while Africa is moving forward with other partners … In Rwanda, Paul Kagame illustrates this quite well, with the removal of French as an official language, in favor of English. The rise of Asian countries in lieu of former colonial powers shows that more than ever a change of attitude and strategy is needed.

Adopt a French presidential candidate!

In Burkina Faso, a country troubled by violent mutinies in the army, Leyla M. Diallo launches a tongue-in-cheeck appeal to her president, on opposition Facebook group Blaise Campaoré doit partir (Blaise Campaoré must go) [fr]:

Toi qui es assuré de gagner ton élection à 80% des suffrages exprimés, partage un peu de ta béatitude avec un candidat perclus de sous-financement aigu sévère. Toi, dont les dépenses courantes sont moins contrôlées que dans les pays du Nord: parraine un présidentiable français!”

You, who are assured to win your election with 80% of the votes, please share a little of your good fortune with a candidate stricken with acute under-financement. You, whose expenditures are less controled than in northern countries: adopt a French presidential candidate!

Faso.net has republished a column from Le Pays, urging civil society to come forward [fr]:

les Africains doivent comprendre qu’ils sont les vrais perdants dans cette histoire. Il est temps qu’ils fassent preuve de maturité et prennent à bras-le-corps leurs responsabilités. L’obligation de rendre compte, inhérente à toute gouvernance démocratique, doit cesser d’être un simple discours. La balle est, pour cet aggiornamento, dans le camp de la société civile africaine. Elle doit sortir de sa torpeur et prendre le relais, pour demander des explications à tous les gouvernants

Africans must understand they are the real losers of this story. It's high time for them to show they are mature and tackle their responsabilities. The obligation of accountability, central to any democratic governance, must go beyond mere words. The ball is, for this awakening call, in the field of African civil society. It must snap out of its slumber and take charge, to demand explanations from all its leaders.

In France, where a judge has scheduled a preliminary hearing of Robert Bourgi, Survie.org, the pioneer organisation who filed a lawsuit against African leaders and their “ill gotten gains” in France, urges French voters to demand a thorough parliamentary investigation, on the eve of their own presidential election:

un tel audit devra poser toutes les questions qui fâchent, qu’il s’agisse du soutien aux dictateurs africains et aux contreparties obtenues, du financement occulte de la vie politique française, du rôle de l’armée française et de ses multiples ingérences, des multinationales, du franc CFA, etc.Au-delà des mallettes et des millions d’euros évoqués dans cette affaire, il est utile de rappeler que l’Afrique est victime d’une prédation économique et financière particulièrement sophistiquée

The investigation will have to raise every difficult questions: the support to African dictators and the price they paid for it, the secret financing of French political life, the role of the French army and its multiple interferences, the role of the corporations, of the Franc CFA currency, etc. Beyond the suitcases and the millions of Euros of this scandal, it is useful to remind readers that Africa is the victim of a particularly sophisticated economical and financial looting.

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