[in] focus

France will not redefine its relations with Africa

THE election of the socialist candidate, François Hollande, as the president of France at the weekend has triggered a lot of speculation about the wider implications of this development. Clearly, they will be far wider than the issue of the eurozone debt crisis. There are both fears and hopes for Africa. Hopes that Hollande will bring France closer to a non-paternalistic relationship with Francophone Africa have to be moderated because the relationship is founded in neo-colonialism, a system by which the power of an external state lingers on after nominal independence through linkages perpetuated by the nature of economic relations, a complex aid system, cultural linkages and binding legal agreements, among other factors.

Writing in 1965 in a publication entitled, Neocolonialism, the last stage of imperialism, the late Ghanaian president, Kwame Nkrumah, decries, even at that early stage of independence, the fact that although many former colonies had all the trappings of national sovereignty in the community of nations, they were still controlled subtly from the old colonial capitals. He noticed that in most cases, economic decisions and political reforms were directed from outside. He thought neocolonialism was more complicated than colonialism because while in the case of the latter declared colonial powers were obliged to account, at least, to their own voting populations for their activities in the colonies and those in the colonies who participated in colonial rule could count on colonial powers to protect them against their domestic opponents, neither is true under neo-colonialism. Former colonial powers are willing to dispense of yesterday’s friends when challenged internally and substitute them for a new clientele elite.

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Africa needs wise collective leadership as regression grows

THE lofty statements about the leadership Africa needs made some of Africa’s heads of states at the World Economic Forum meetings in Addis Ababa this week are correct. As Gabon’s Ali Bongo and Ethiopia’s Meles Zenawi put it, Africa needs a leadership that is tenacious, focused, impervious to disruptive external pressures and that is willing to sacrifice much for the common good. This is true even though both of these leaders are not particularly known for living up to the ideals that they are preaching now. They have not shown the ability not to transcend narrow national interests and to resist divisive external agendas.

This new leadership emphasis is needed all the same because of the resurgence of military coups, with the latest taking place in Mali and Guinea-Bissau, and the growth of political arrangements after disputed elections unfortunately coincide with a weakening of Pan-African leadership. The reversal of democracy, which needs a strong response from Africa’s major political actors, happens when Africa’s big states are not united and energetic.

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Malian Coup – a precursor to regional destabilization?

The replacement of the Amadou Toure government and illegal accession to power by the ‘National Committee for the Restoration of Democracy and State’ (NCRD) signals an escalation in the political destabilization of West Africa. The army’s official reason for the coup according to junta spokesperson Lieutenant Amadou Konare, is that the Toure government did not provide support to the army in its fight against a northern rebellion led by Tuareg rebels and suspected Al-Qaeda networks. But taking place a mere month away from the Malian presidential elections in which deposed President Toure had no plans for breaking the two term limit, the coup seems completely unnecessary. While the coup has been described as ‘pushing Mali back by twenty years’, its implications for the sub-region and the continent are even more worrisome. This think piece considers these ramifications and how they might be mitigated.

The junior officers who instigated the mutiny and ‘guardian coup’ is explained by the need to improve public order and efficiency. While the NCRD is acting as an ‘arbitrator army’, the coup could also be classified as an anticipatory veto coup as the military were losing substantial ground to the Tuareg rebellion and therefore it could have been launched to pre-empt power passing to the rebels. Mali's poorly equipped army of just 7,000 has proved no match for the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (NMLA), the main front of the Tuareg rebellion. The rebels have recently taken and continue to hold several key towns in the north, including Tessalit, Aguel Hoc and Menaka. The NMLA has also been boosted by the return of an estimated 800 to 4,000 Tuareg fighters from Libya.

 

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Is Germany’s Rise Europe’s Decline? Implications For Global Integration

In 2010, over breakfast at a German-sponsored workshop in Stellenbosch, I found myself enduring heated reactions to my innocent sharing with my German colleagues an article on ‘the renationalisation of Europe.’ It was penned by US Council on Foreign Relations scholar Charles Kupchan reprinted in The Sunday Independent. The anti-American hostility evoked by the temerity of Kupchan suggesting a reversal in the fortunes of European integration was palpable. What right did an American have commenting on things European or pontificating on what Europeans should be doing? Americans should mind their own business. The German reactions could not have been more militantly ant-imperialist than had they been expressed by a third world revolutionary from somewhere in the non-West.

Fast-forward to 2012. The Eurozone crisis is daily news staple amid the predicted rise of Germany into European dominance. What are we witnessing? Article after article on the threatened demise not only of the euro but of the EU itself under the hegemonic regimen of German-imposed austerity. The historic ‘German Question’ has devolved into an existential crisis for the EU. This is where a much anticipated ‘European Germany’ is begetting a ‘German Europe,’ one threatening the social democratic compact upon which a progressive alternative to Anglo-American neoliberalism was predicated; Anglo-American capitalism itself in crisis along with its erstwhile ‘Washington Consensus.’

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BRICS in search of identity

As the 4th BRICS Leaders’ Meeting gets underway in New Delhi at the end of this month, a tone-setting forum of academics from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa issued a declaration that, among other things recommended: “BRICS must evolve a platform for creating contextualized multilateral policies, and by mutual consultation develop viable and credible mechanisms to respond to local, regional and international political and social turbulence such as the events being witnessed in West Asia and North Africa…”

Recognising that: “The increasing involvement of non-state actors and the dilution of non-interference are dual challenges that need to be met. Appropriate policies consistent with international law need to be studied by BRICS academic institutions.”

Whether, at the official level, any of this unsolicited advice is taken on board, the sentiments expressed in these recommendations reflect the extent to which the global economic agenda of BRICS has gravitated in an increasingly political direction. The main motivation behind the launching of BRIC (without South Africa) in 2009 was the increasing assertiveness by China and Russia in pressing for movement away from the US Dollar as the world’s reserve currency.

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