France and Britain Cling on Jealously in their Former Colonies
In the general debate at the 76th session of the UN General Assembly, Sergey Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, pointed out that certain western countries are increasingly riding roughshod over peoples’ right to self-determination, if such right conflicts with their geopolitical interests. He reminded the Assembly that “in spite of UN resolutions and decisions of the international Court of Justice, there are still former colonial territories around the world, and their erstwhile masters have no intention of granting them independence.”
He claimed that the West is trying to impose a “rules-based order”, adding that by shifting the discussion on key issues to formats that suit it best “the West wants to exclude from the global decision-making process those who have their own, different point of view. Like-minded groups and various “appeals” emerge – the goal is to coordinate prescriptions and then make everyone else follow them,” Mr. Lavrov said. “The rules-based order promoted by the West is founded on double standards”, he added. Russia has on more than one occasion criticized the West for trying to replace the UN Charter and existing rules of international law with a so-called “rules-based” world order. Mr. Lavrov in his address to the UN proposed a hashtag – #UNCharterIsOurRules – so that people could support the UN Charter in social networks.
The Minister said that “the number of problems on the international agenda continues to rise… We are seeing increasing attempts to use the ‘might is right approach instead of ‘right is might’. There is no consensus among the leading powers as to the principles of the world order.” The Russian Foreign Minister called on the international community to work together in resisting the challenges and threats in full compliance with the rules of international law, particularly the UN Charter.
He emphasized that the multipolar world is becoming a reality, and that attempts to ignore this reality by “asserting oneself as the only legitimate decision-making center” will do nothing to bring about solutions to real challenges, which can only be overcome through mutually respectful dialogue between the leading powers and with due regard for the interests of all other members of the international community.
A good example of the creation of an international community with its own legitimate decision-making center is the establishment of the Commonwealth of former British colonies and dominions by King George VI, in 1949. This “civilized union” led by the former colonial power brought together 54 countries with a total population currently standing at over two billion – almost a third of the world’s population. It was not even necessary for the former “Emperor” to resign – in 16 of the Commonwealth countries Elizabeth II is still the head of state.
And the Commonwealth countries include five of the most rapidly developing economic powers in the world – India, South Africa, Malaysia, Nigeria, and Singapore, and five of its members are in the G20. The Commonwealth has an annual trading turnover of over $3 trillion. Many Commonwealth countries share – or have very similar – legal and accounting systems, which helps support mutual trade and cooperation in the field of education. Aware of the important role played by a common language in promoting Unity, London attempted the preserve the role of English as the main or official language in 85% of the Commonwealth countries.
There are times that London is criticized – strongly and in no uncertain terms for its paternalistic attitudes or its “Big Brother” complex in relation to its former colonies and dominions, and in such cases the Commonwealth can serve as a political lever for putting political and economic pressure on such “critics”. For example, in 2003 Graça Machel, Mozambican politician and wife of Nelson Mandela, criticized Britain for its attitude to Zimbabwe and other former colonies, calling on it to reconsider its relations with those countries and let Africa choose its own path. After that incident Zimbabwe was expelled from the Commonwealth.
While Britain limited itself to appointing several hundred British officials to key posts in its former colonies to exercise a measure of control in the future, France, for much the same reasons, embedded tens if not hundreds of thousands of French citizens into the administrative machinery of its former possessions. As with Britain, France’s main reason was to avoid losing the important “economic interests” it had enjoyed for decades. To support the idea of a French Union, promoted by Charles de Gaulle at the end of the 1950s, Paris created a special structure, the French Development Agency, and spends approximately 0.5% of its GDP on supporting those countries, mainly francophone nations such as Niger, Mali, the Central African Republic, among many others.
Paris justifies its paternalistic attitude to its former territories by referring to the fact that France is home to half a million immigrants from Mali as well as several hundred thousand immigrants from Senegal and thousands from other Francophone African countries. Not to mention the many immigrants from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, or French citizens born with their roots in those or other African countries.
In recent years, following the clear failure of the current French government’s policies in a number of African states (in particular, Mali and the Central African Republic), and evidently jealous of growing influence of Russia and China in Africa, Paris has changed its approach and is openly intervening in the affairs of several of its former overseas territories in an attempt to assert itself as “the only legitimate decision-making center.” The West, and France in particular, is stepping up its criticisms of Russian aid to African countries, especially the Central African Republic (CAR). The Russian Foreign Ministry has commented on this situation in an article published on its website.
Paris has recently been adopting a similar tactic in relation to Mali, publishing fake articles and posts on social media sites to give the impression that the Malians are in favor of a French military presence in their country – which could not be further from the truth. The Malians have remained loyal to their leaders in Bamako, who are clear about their goals – to promote the renewal of the state and national prosperity. They support their patriotic policies followed by their legitimate government rather than the neo-colonial measures advocated by France. And despite the French President Emmanuel Macron’s criticism of Choguel Kokalla Maïga, Mali’s Prime Minister of the Transition, and even his attempts to cast aspersions on the Malian leadership’s legitimacy, the Malian people remain distrustful of France’s policies.
BaronTre, a Malian blogger and well-known public figure, recently responded to France’s actions in a letter – expressed in no uncertain terms – to the Élysée Palace: “A fake news campaign, disinformation, a toxic attack on Mali. The methods they used in the good old days are no longer working. The worthy Malians understand what is going on. Why this obsession with staying on in Mali, a poor country? The Malians are a sovereign nation and have chosen their future. You have no chance of success.”
Vladimir Danilov, political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.