African Visions: Literary Images, Political Change, and Social Struggle in Contemporary Africa

By Cheryl B. Mwaria; Silvia Federici et al. | Go to book overview

7
Democratization and Interventionism in Francophone Sub-Saharan Africa

François Ngolet

France's economic (and political) role in Francophone Black Africa seems destined to decrease in importance in relation to that of other nations.

Tony Chaffer

Two different methods have been used, over the last decade, to analyze the postcolonial history of Africa. The first interprets it in terms of local rationalities. 1 This approach has been popularized by Jean François Bayart, who has argued that in order to understand the functioning of African states we must focus on the internal dynamics of African societies. According to Bayart, capitalism did not destroy the specificity of African cultures; therefore, the relations of inequality and domination existing in modern African states should be seen as an outcome of precolonial social structures. For Bayart, the social and political dynamics of African societies today perpetuate their ancestral history in a modern form; 2 thus, it is the cultural and historical experiences of African people that can help us understand phenomena such as patrimonialism, 3 predatory states, 4 and the tensions between state and "civil society." 5 External factors, of course, are supposed to play a small role in the occurrence of these phenomena.

Without neglecting local factors, a contrasting approach is taken by Patrick Chabal. 6 For Chabal, the political institutions adopted by African states after independence were more or less imposed by the former colonizers, and there is nothing specifically African about current African politics. As this chapter shows, the situation of Francophone countries supports Chabal's argument. For example, France's military presence in Africa, after the cold war, has remained strong. In 1996, French troops intervened in the Central African Republic to repress a military mutiny threatening Ange Patasse's regime. 7 In 1994, important French military garrisons were active in Rwanda, before

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