The French Knee on Africa's Neck

By some coincidence, I saw in 2020 in the French capital of Paris and of course enjoyed the many delights of what France and Paris is known for. During one of our dinners complete with all the trimmings of a French soiree, one of the guest said, “L'anne 2020 sera parfaite parce que, Dieu lui meme a déjà donne 20 sur 20” Literally translated means that, the year 2020 would be perfect as even the good Lord has decreed by giving full marks of 20 on 20 a perfect score.

Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

Literally translated means that, the year 2020 would be perfect as even the good Lord has decreed by giving full marks of 20 on 20 a perfect score. That was in January and everything seems fine then with some very faint news reports about some virus (now called Covid 19) in Wuhan China. This seemed very far away then. While the world was and is still grappling with its response to the Covid 19 global pandemic, we all watched in horror an even more dangerous virus that has been with us for more than 400 years. While Covid19 is new and frantic efforts are being made to find a vaccine and possible cure, the 400 year old virus called “Racism” is very much  alive and efforts to find a vaccine talk more of a cure are at best limited to fine speeches by some well-meaning individuals and leaders. We cannot not talk about the horrific death or execution or lynching of Mr. George Floyd on May 25, 2020. His death should not have happened. One can only postulate that, the cavalier and nonchalant attitude with which  his killer carried out this heinous act  is a strongly held belief  and  confidence that the system in place would condone and in some cases has sort to make excuses for such inhumane behaviour.

Thankfully, it seems the world is waking up to what black folks (people) have been crying about for far too long. Or as Will Smith famously put it, “ Racism has not changed, its now only being filmed”. If anything good does comes out of this sad episode, then we can say Mr. Floyd’s death like others before him has not been in vain. I feel duty bound at the point to pay homage to his family and to all those who have lost their lives senselessly because of their skin colour. What Mr. Floyd’s death represents is a system that allows for a people to be denied their humanity. For them to be put in a position of perpetual servitude so the other, the "white race" remains prosperous and thereby claim superiority. The so-called advanced western democratic countries whose wealth has been built on the backs of the slave trade most now begin to reckon with the realities of the 21 century. The black man and black race has had enough and to quote the Rev. Al Sharpton speaking at Mr. Floyd’s memorial, “ We have been denied education and even though we were put in underfunded schools, we still rose and would do better if we did not have your knee on our neck”. This Knee on the Neck by the French since granting independence to its African colonies has stifled growth and any other form of human advancement in these countries. The so called “Colonial Pact” that France forced on all African countries to sign as a  prelude to independence cannot be described in any better way than that, The French firmly placed their Knee on the neck of these African countries.  As an example, in 1958 the late President of Guinea, Mr. Sekou Toure refused to sign what amounted to an acceptance of  the French knee on the neck of Guinea. His rejection was put in very simple terms,“I prefer freedom in poverty than riches in slavery”.

This singular act of defiance drew the wrath of the French state who reduced themselves to the meanest acts to spite and punish Toure by crippling the economy before they left. It is alleged that even the toilets were blocked with concrete to ensure a most difficult and frustrating start to the nascent  state of Guinea. Their subsequent involvement in Francophone Africa against anyone attempting to get the French knee off their necks has been brutal - Sylvio Olympio of Togo, Modibo Kieta of Mail,  Felix Moumie & Um Nyombe of Cameroon.Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso and the list goes on. Then the CFA. The French currency used by its former colonies is one of the main tools to keep them under developed. Then there is the "Colonial Pact" with has two very important provisions which I call the Two Cardinal sins against Africa and the black man 

Photo: BBC

1.African countries must deposit  50% of their reserves at the French treasury.This figure was much higher and as a gesture of good will has been reduced. What an irony and supreme insult to Africa. To put this into some perspective. This 50% represents in real or cash terms $500 Billion Dollars of Africa's money that sits in the French treasury every year. This whopping figure dwarfs the combined indebtedness of the entire African continent. These funds are invested by the French treasury without giving any account to the  countries who then have the privilege of  borrowing their own money at commercial  rates. Another cruel irony 

2. France and French companies have the first right of refusal to all mineral & forestry wealth as well as government contracts. This practice is a chokehold to ensure African countries remain subservient to France. With the current events, black people across the globe are demanding the immediate removal of that knee on their necks to allow them breathe.

 I proudly joined my son, born in the UK and facing first-hand the injustices of the Knee on his neck for a demonstration last Sunday 07 June 2020 where he addressed the crowds .The irony was not lost on me as I quickly realised that a man, me born in Cameroon was protesting injustices in the USA and the UK while not shouting enough about the injustices in Cameroon and Africa perpetrated by the same system I am protesting against in the UK. The injustices are many in Cameroon and Africa at large. Yes, we would have detractors telling us about black people having a chip on their shoulders and not doing enough. Yes! we would have detractors even telling us that, after 60 years of independence we should not be blaming the west for our failures. Yes! we must accept our short comings but that is no excuse for the knee which still weighs heavily on our necks...This article is a call for black people, Africans and particularly Africans whose necks are under the French knee to ride this wave and seize this moment to demand more than just justice and reforms from police brutality in the west sickening as that may be. We demand much more. We  demand a root to branch reform of the systems that keep us down. Martin Luther King remarks that, “It’s a cruel jest to ask a bootless man to lift himself up by his bootstraps” resonates with those who ask for African countries to do better. How can they when the knee is firmly on their necks?

We demand our boots and we will lift ourselves and not only stand but run with our boots as we would and are very comfortable when given boots to stand walk and run like any other race. We seek no favours just fairness

And while we demand fairness, we should equally be aware of the “New Knee from the East” which is aiming too for our necks. Our freedom from the white knee would be pointless if it is replaced by another knee regardless of colour. We should be cautious of the Chinese knee heading for our necks. If Mr. Floyd’s death is to mean anything, let it be this, that his death painful though it must have been, in death, he changed the world for the betterment of all black people no matter where they find themselves. For Africans living in former French colonies, the logical conclusion to the wave of change and optimism must be that, the French are put on notice and let it be known we will not miss this boat which will be captained by the younger generation and sailed to the harbour of freedom where there will be no Knee on our Necks and unlike like Mr George Floyd, we would be able to say, I CAN BREATHE !!!!!

Article written by Martin Ewoma


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