Pan-Africanism Today: From Neocolonialism to Multipolarity


Today, the African continent is a new center of confrontation with neocolonialism and foreign expansionism - especially French expansion.  And since the West's preferred method is to control countries through puppet governments, it is only through military coups that the system can be "broken", if only temporarily, by allowing a country to release the pressure of foreign and supranational structures. This is confirmed by the fact that military coups have recently increased in the region: in Mali in 2020, in Guinea in 2021 and now we have seen the same in Burkina Faso.

The coups confirm that European and American missions and projects on the African continent - be it "Françafrique" or "AtlantAfrique" - are failing and being replaced by a new system. More importantly, African consciousness is changing: since none of the political theories available (communism, fascism and liberalism) respond to the demands for sovereignty, economic autonomy and political independence of the peoples of Africa , these are increasingly turning to Pan-Africanism as a movement and vision to shape the horizon of a multipolar world where Africa has its own place.

The origins of Pan-Africanism

Projects for African unification first appeared in the 19th century from the pen of Haitian authors Martin Robison Delany and Benito Sylvain. In the first half of the twentieth century, the most prominent leader of Pan-Africanism was Marcus Garvey. Marcus Garvey, of Jamaican origin, founded the Universal Association for the Improvement of the Negro Condition (UNIA) in the United States in 1914 and launched the Back to Africa project.

Marcus Garvey's ideas were later taken up by a galaxy of African politicians. Pan-African congresses began to be held regularly, and the landmark Fifth Congress in 1945 produced a core of "new leaders" from the African continent who continued to build on Delaney and Garvey's project. Among them, Kwame Nkrumah, the future president of Ghana, Ahmed Sékou Touré, president of Guinea and Jomo Kenyatta, president of Kenya. Pan-Africanism was also practiced by Modibo Keïta, the first president of Mali, Patrice Lumumba, the prime minister of Congo, Julius Nyerere (the first president of Tanzania), Ruben Um Nyobé, the famous revolutionary figure of Cameroon, and Mehdi Ben Barka , Moroccan.

Pan-Africanism was always opposed to colonialism from the start and its main objective was to free Africa from European and North American influences.

Pan-Africanism today

Pan-Africanist slogans and calls for a united Africa are found throughout the recent upheavals. The idea is not new; it appeared at the beginning of the twentieth century and was formalized in the 1960s in the form of the doctrine of the "United States of Africa". Interestingly, Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, was also among the Pan-Africanists who rejected the political ideologies that existed during the Cold War and later (communism, liberalism and fascism) and sought a new political theory. In our time, one of the most consistent and brilliant supporters of the new path in Africa is a well-known political and public figure, president of the NGO Urgences Panafricanistes, founder of the Front against French neocolonialism Kémi Séba.

Born in Strasbourg into a family of Beninese immigrants, Séba studied, but as an adult he decided to return to his native country to devote himself to the fight for the rebirth of Africa. Today, this new generation Pan-African leader regularly visits various African states and actively participates in rallies aimed at liberating the continent from Françafrique, IMF and World Bank oppression, campaigning against colonialist currency, the CFA franc, and strongly opposes the spread of globalist and neoliberal ideology. The map of Séba's recent visits is extremely interesting: precisely in the countries where Séba had visited previously and where he had had problems with the authorities, and where he had been either expelled or arrested, the situation is change and pan-Africanists, close to Séba, come to power in place of pro-French collaborators. Or at least the military who give the people a chance to oust pro-French governments and structures. Supporters of Pan-Africanism and opponents of French colonialism on the continent see it as a convincing argument. For Séba, Africa prevails over residual, inertial and totally counter-productive Euro-colonialism.

Kémi Séba is convinced that the "number one disease" that kills people in West and Central Africa is not Covid-19 or jihadism, but Françafrique. "It is time for us Africans to have the science of geopolitical discernment", he notes, "We are threatened every day because we have the most beautiful LAND in the world. It is up to us to know how to protect it".

Thus, one of the main points of Séba's program is to rid Africa of neocolonialism - and in particular of the French influence which prevails in West Africa. "We are going to DISLODE colonial France from the SAHEL first, then from Africa generally afterwards. We will do it in a CIVILIZED, STRATEGICALLY NON-VIOLENT but intellectually VIRULENT way," he said.

Pan-African leaders who do not share the neoliberal agenda also prefer to meet Pan-Africanists such as Séba: for example, it was with him that the new leader of Guinea, Mamady Doumbouya, met in October 2021, immediately after the ousting of pro-French dictator Alpha Condé. The fact that international organizations (ECOWAS and others) are exerting sanctioning pressure on countries that do not agree with the agenda - Mali, Guinea and others - only reinforces the desire of young leaders and energetic to work with alternative-minded politicians.

Kémi Séba is closely associated with another African political leader, this time leftist Adam Diarra, also known as Ben le Cerveau, from Mali. Ben le Cerveau and his movement actively contributed to the overthrow of the pro-French protege in Mali, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, and became the backbone of Mali's new president Assimi Goïta. Kémi Séba and Adam Diarra organized a large rally in Bamako to support the new government.

It is important to note that Kémi Séba and his associates have considerably revised Pan-Africanist theories and now advocate deep decolonization, which, in addition to political and economic liberation, involves the complete cleansing of African consciousness from Eurocentric and above all liberal colonial clichés. -globalists. The main enemies of this pan-Africanism are the networks of the globalist George Soros. The new African leaders speak out against mass migration and for the return of all Africans to their historic homeland, whose greatness and prosperity they are called to revive on the basis of ancient African traditions and cultures.

Russia and China, the current poles of opposition to the West, are seen as logical allies in such a situation.

The legacy of Thomas Sankara

The origins of Pan-Africanism can be found in the activities of Thomas Sankara, a legendary figure, a hero of Burkina Faso and an important point of reference for all Pan-Africanists. It was he who gave his name to the country ("Country of Upright Men"), renaming it the old colonialist name "Upper Volta".

Sankara himself was a man of absolute integrity: he opposed any hegemony on the African continent, was inspired by the ideas of Fidel Castro and the Cuban revolution, and advocated a popular democratic revolution with anti- imperialists. Sankara was a true folk hero, a legendary figure. When he was murdered in 1987, it was discovered that all he owned were four bicycles, a refrigerator with a broken freezer, and three guitars. The ascetic nature of his life, as well as his strict requirements of modest conditions for officials, also add credibility to his ideas and beliefs.

In the field of international relations, he focused on the fight against neoliberalism, insisting on independence from international bodies (IMF, World Bank and others). Although Sankara - like many prominent Pan-Africanists, such as Ahmed Sékou Touré, Kwame Nkrumah or Mathieu Kérékou (Benin's first president) - was a left-wing activist, he was not an orthodox communist and supported the Non-Orthodox Movement. aligned. In his address to the Non-Aligned Summit in New Delhi from March 7 to 13, 1983, Sankara stressed that the ideal of the Pan-Africanist movement was "the deep and courageous awareness of a world that imperialism would like to see eternally subject to its domination, to its pillage and its indiscriminate massacres".

The following quote explains perhaps in the most detail possible the geopolitical orientations of Sankara which are still relevant today for the partisans of a multipolar world in general and the Pan-Africanists in particular: "Because born in the middle of the Cold War the non-aligned movement was intended first of all as a force representing the deep aspiration of our countries for freedom, independence and peace in the face of the hostile blocs present, as a force affirming our right as a country , and of a sovereign people to choose freely and without subjugation our own paths for the progress of our peoples to freely choose our friends in the world on the basis of their concrete attitude towards the aspiration of our peoples to liberation from the colonial, neocolonial yoke or racist to independence, security, peace and social economic progress".

Thus, non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries is one of the key points of the Sankara program, just like economic independence (acquiring economic sovereignty, detaching from the IMF, not having foreign debt and not depend on imports).

In Sankara's eyes at the time, the main demon of modern African hegemony was France. Unsurprisingly, it was the French intelligence services who organized his assassination in 1987, at the height of the popularity of the young and energetic African hopeful. Documents confirming their involvement were published by the left-wing French newspaper L'Humanité.

The coup in Burkina Faso and the new Che Guevaras

Pan-Africanism manifests itself today not only in the aspirations of peoples and the growing demand for multipolarity, but also in specific individuals - the militants and the colonels, the "African Che Guevaras" who come to power in many regions, including including in Burkina Faso.

The coup in Burkina Faso is a special case; this is the terrain where Pan-Africanism has made itself fully known. In January 2022, in this country, Sankara's birthplace, power passed into the hands of the rebels. Burkina Faso President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, who had ruled the country since 2015, was taken into custody, at a time that coincided with an upsurge in terrorist activity in the region, with thousands killed and more than a million displaced persons. Tensions and fears for the country's security had been building for years, and as the French presence did nothing to resolve the situation with radical Islamists and bandits, mass protests erupted in November 2021, continuing until to the coup. On January 24, Burkina Faso experienced a de facto change of power: a group of 14 soldiers appeared on state television and announced the dissolution of the government and parliament.

On January 27, military leader Paul-Henri Damiba addressed the nation. He is a man who has practical experience in the fight against terrorists. His speech faithfully repeated Sankara's declarations: a call to fight terrorism, to unite all the ethnic groups and tribes of Burkina Faso, to overcome divisions, to obtain independence and autonomy.

“Our ambition is none other than to federate all the energies of our country, to lay the foundations of a new Burkina Faso, rid of the tinsel of a political management at odds with the new aspirations of our people”, a- he declared. "Our agenda is unique and it is clear: the safeguard of our people and the rebuilding of our Nation."

Mr. Damiba's speech does not explicitly call for a choice of future partners, but the outlines are quite pan-Africanist.

What are the modern pan-Africanists, these "black Che Guevaras" up against? They are many, because Burkina Faso is not an exceptional case of pan-Africanist coup, something similar has happened in recent years in Mali and Guinea. One could call this a “chain reaction of Pan-Africanism”.

On key issues, Pan-Africanism continues Sankara's line, but taking into account modern "neo-colonial" realities. Pan-Africanists oppose the neo-colonial model of Françafrique, the informal tutelage of France through the economic instruments put in place after the independence of a number of African countries. The policy of Françafrique has its own peculiarities. First of all, it is not led by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs but by individual figures from the Elysée. It is a shadow diplomacy which is not under the direct authority of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs - what is called the "Elysée department", "the backyard of the President". The most prominent "Monsieur Françafrique" was the French diplomat and intelligence agent Jacques Foccart, who held his ground until 1974 and who, in fact, geopolitically justified and partially implemented the entire neocolonial project.

Since the Foccart era, France's neocolonialism has manifested itself in the following way:

  • The control of African states through commercial contracts and large-scale credit policies,
  • The active presence of French civil servants or technical attachés in African countries,
  • Interference in the internal life of African countries, in particular through military contracts (security agreements, mercenary activities, etc.),
  • The cultural, informational and educational influences on African societies, which directly encourage mass emigration to Europe.

Françafrique: bad or good?

If, from a pan-Africanist point of view, Françafrique is a negative and colonial term, even in France opinions differ on the subject. Some French patriots indeed think that Africa should be left alone. Another part thinks that the purely French influence (compared to that of the British and the Americans) is not the worst thing that has happened to the continent, and that on the contrary, it has given it the possibility of development.

For example, Bernard Lugan, a historian of Africa, is one such person. Although he shares New Right ideas on the need to reject hegemony and colonialism in Africa, he believes that Françafrique is a myth. According to him, there are two types of influence: the French influence, which has given the continent goodness, knowledge, security, and the Anglo-Saxon influence, which is destructive and self-interested because it focuses only on economic interests. It was thanks to French influence – at least for a while, Lugan points out – that African countries developed and joined the source of the Enlightenment. When Mr. Lugan is rebuffed by what Emmanuel Macron, and before him François Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy, have done to Africa, setting up puppet regimes without real French values, he replies that the crisis in the governance of the Africa is due to the fact that France has forgotten its own values, landmarks and culture, and that it exports an impersonal globalist agenda to Africa. In other words, France has started to replicate the Anglo-Saxon method of governing the continent, and it's very bad, says Lugan. According to him, it is necessary to restore a correct relationship with Africa.

However, Pan-Africanist leaders such as Kémi Séba are not convinced by such views. Whatever European regimes impose on Africa, it is always alienation and exploitation. In this sense, the complete collapse of the African strategy of the last three French presidents reveals more than anything else the fundamental failure of any form of European colonialism, whether openly liberal and globalist, or the "enlightened" one of which Lugan.

Meanwhile, in practice, we see the failure of Françafrique, and above all the failure of the policies of Emmanuel Macron personally, who paid lip service to neocolonialist governance but nevertheless fell into the trap of old system. Even with the regular visits of French politicians to Africa, it is clear that France has lost the region. And quite naturally, new players are arriving on the continent - especially China and Russia, but also Turkey and other states. Russia is today particularly active in supporting the new wave of anti-colonialist movements (much like the Soviet Union in the days of bipolarity) and Russian flags (but not yet Chinese and Turkish flags) appear from more and more frequently in rallies alongside local and Pan-Africanist flags.

Russia, guarantor of multipolarity

Why Russian flags? What important things can we bring to it? In one of his interviews, Kémi Séba said that when he sees people in rallies chanting "Russia will save us", he goes to them and says, "You are wrong". He said that Russia is Africa's ally, an important guarantor of sovereignty and a strong geopolitical argument, but salvation must come from Africans themselves. Africans must reject all Western political theories and build their own, African model, which is neither liberal, nor communist, nor nationalist. African countries have tried all these options during their twentieth century experience, and all have led to the complete collapse of the respective political regimes.

So why is Russia's role positive in the region, and why don't African liberation leaders like Kémi Séba oppose it? Because Russia becomes the guarantor of multipolarity, which allows African peoples to live as they wish. It is in Russia, Séba points out, that there is no expansionist and neocolonialist rhetoric or obsession (unlike liberalism and globalism). That said, the military and technical success of the Russians, as can be seen on the African fronts, and the effectiveness of the fight against terrorism are several times greater than those of the French. Russian private military companies, which you hear about all over the Western media, are helping to bring about peace and defeat terrorism, while the Macronian-era combat strategy allegedly fights extremists with one hand, and implicitly support each other, trying to derive political advantage from the suffering of African peoples - according to the principle of "divide and conquer". Russians have no such double standards.

The cultural factor

One of the most important factors to consider when engaging with Africa to avoid repeating the mistakes of others is the cultural and religious sensitivity of African societies. Bernard Lugan, in his analysis of the failure of the French mission in Mali, notes that the French lost because they did not take into account ethnic specificities - they did not understand, for example, that the Tuaregs think in terms of local space, in terms of the independence (federalization) of Azawad, and that terrorist groups are supranational structures. Because France overlooked such an important detail, it failed in its mission.

In order for Russia to have a dense and lasting cooperation with the region, it is necessary to take into account not only geopolitical maps but also ethno-sociological maps, religious factors and cultural peculiarities.

If we look at Burkina Faso for example, we must not forget that there are still elements of the traditional system and that the sacred figure of the spiritual monarch Mogho Naaba, a mythical ruler of Ouagadougou who has become a title, is still important for the inhabitants. He functions on earth as the king of the world, and these beliefs of the Mossi people, who make up about half of the population, are still very much alive in the public mind. For example, during the fight against the coronavirus, it was the local health ministry official who addressed this dignitary to bless the people for their recovery. Politicians also turn to him for advice, including consulting him on the eve of the coup.

In other words, when we enter an area, when we start to interact with the local people, we have to pay considerable attention to the culture of the latter, to carry out a thorough cultural analysis.

Another curious example is that of the female factor in Burkina Faso. Women played a crucial role in the Mossi kingdom, as the state was founded by a local warrior woman who refused to marry and had her own mounted battalion. And such details, myths that mattered in the twelfth century, suddenly appeared in Sankara, who spoke of a particular African tradition of the emancipation of women and even created a female guard unit on motorcycles.

Thus, if we do not approach the regions of Africa carefully, examining ethno-sociology, religion and myths, we risk becoming as inorganic and alienated from the elements as the bearers of European colonialism became to the African peoples. Pan-Africanism as a whole can be seen as analogous to Eurasianism, which advocates the integration of continental territories united by common history, culture, language families and economic models. An Africa united with its own idea could in the future become another pillar of a multipolar world order, a favorable pole for Russia.