While French diplomacy is still recovering from the explosion of « anti-French » sentiment that set Senegal ablaze a few days ago, is Paris preparing to endorse puppet elections organised by some of the most caricatured regimes in its former homeland? Everything points to this for the polls being prepared in Chad and Djibouti in April, and from this Sunday in Congo Brazzaville. Survie reminds us that the support of the French state to these dictatorships feeds the « anti-French » feeling on the African continent.
This Sunday 21 March in Congo-Brazzaville, the dictator-candidate Denis Sassou N’Guesso, in power since 1979 , is running in a presidential election that seems to have been decided in advance. The electoral campaign has once again been punctuated by arrests of opponents and human rights defenders. The latest to be arrested was Alexandre Ibacka Dzabana, coordinator of the Congolese Platform of Human Rights and Democracy NGOs and a member of the Tournons La Page Congo coalition, who was arrested at his home in Brazzaville on Thursday 11 March . This coalition of NGOs, which is the Congolese regime’s « itching powder », campaigns for the transparency of the elections by raising citizens’ awareness of the issues at stake in the vote and by training election observers. If French diplomacy remains discreet on this electoral context, it is because the regime of Denis Sassou N’Guesso can count on the unfailing support of Paris.
This is reflected in close military cooperation, maintained despite the crude modification of the Constitution allowing Sassou N’Guesso to remain in power without term limits since 2015, and the bloody repression of popular demonstrations opposing this project. In 2017, France boasted, for example, that it had a « special adviser » to the Minister of Defence . Just last month, the French authorities indicated that they were providing « support for the command and joint organisation, by providing advice and training engineering to the highest levels of the Congolese General Staff », and that they were training « several dozen men and women of the Congolese Public Force » .
Moreover, in a country that is almost at a standstill, France’s economic support remains a determining factor in keeping Sassou N’Guesso in power. France is one of the main investors in the Congo and boasts of being the leading donor of bilateral official development assistance . At the same time, oil exploitation is in full swing: eighteen months ago, the country announced the discovery of an onshore deposit that could quadruple national production, ensure juicy profits for Total, which is already having a field day in the country, and provide new resources for Sassou N’Guesso’s presidency for life.
For Patrice Garesio, co-president of the association Survie, « as long as France supports such regimes through close military, police and economic cooperation, we should not be surprised to see ‘anti-French sentiment’ flourishing everywhere. In reality, it is a legitimate rejection of Françafrique, reinforced by the current policy of Emmanuel Macron and his government.
Press contact: Mehdi Derradji, communications officer of the Survie association – (+33) 06 52 21 15 61 – mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
- Apart from a five-year interlude between 1992 and 1997, which ended in a coup d’état and a civil war.
- The reasons for his arrest are not known and he was denied access to his lawyer. See the statement by a collective of human rights NGOs calling for his release: https://blogs.mediapart.fr/jecmaus/blog/170321/congo-demande-de-liberation-du-dr-alexandre-ibacka-dzabana