FRANCE, AFRICA, AND
A PLACE CALLED FASHODA
All the problems we have had in French West Africa have
nothing to do with a desire for independence, but are rooted
in the rivalry between the French and British blocs. British
agents have fomented all our problems.
François Mitterrand, who expressed the sentiments cited above several years before France granted independence to its African empire, 1 was probably the last French president after the decolonization to be accorded the semi- imperial status of his predecessors. Much as he would have liked to carry on the tradition, his successor Jacques Chirac lacked the aura and substance that would have accorded him a similar stature. However, times were changing even while Mitterrand was still at the helm of the French Republic. On 7 February 1994, he led seven former French prime ministers and a former French president on a procession which—unknown to all of them—marked the twilight of the long period of their imperial influence in Africa and presaged an end to anglophone-francophone rivalry there.
The foundations of that rivalry had been laid on 17 September 1898, when Jean-Baptiste Marchand, a French emissary charged with establishing a French presence at Fashoda, 700 miles south of Khartoum, was forced to abandon his mission when confronted by forces led by the British general