Mmegi Online :: Letter to President Emmanuel Macron
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Last Updated
Tuesday 19 September 2017, 16:12 pm.
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Letter to President Emmanuel Macron

In a three and a half minute speech, that to many shocked listeners must have sounded much longer, French leader, Emmanuel Macron, this week stunned Africa with rehashed colonial and even racist narratives about the cause and way out of the continent’s under-development. Staff Writer, MBONGENI MGUNI gives him a reality check
By Mbongeni Mguni Fri 14 Jul 2017, 15:48 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Letter to President Emmanuel Macron








Dear Sir,

We were in the audience mid-May in the Champs-Élysées at your inauguration, the thunderous applause as you vowed to champion global confidence, our eyes watering with pride at one of world’s youngest leaders, an emotion heightened in importance by the menace rising from the election of Mr Donald J. Trump.

We clapped along happily in the audience, not noticing that you had climbed off the dais and were making your way purposefully down the aisles, where your eyes singled us out and, as the crowd quietened down, you informed us that despite our Western pressed suits and genteel demeanour, you could smell the loin-cloth and cow dung we had freshly departed from back home on the Dark Continent.

We had been exposed, the Africans at the party, escapees from a Dark Continent which is also home to poverty, conflict, disease, hunger and misery, a continent desperately in need of a European saviour, someone white to reach in and make everything right.

After all, for all its history, this continent owes all of its development to the intervention of the benevolent European, who helped the African down the trees he was swinging from, taught him a language, how to feed himself, how to trade, how to succeed, how to be civilised.

With this engrained worldview, this irrefutable history you were taught and know, Mr President, you again found yourself before an African at the G-20 meeting in Africa this week, a citizen of Cote d’Ivoire, one of your former “civilisation beneficiaries”.

This particular African, a journalist, wanted to know why there was no Marshall Plan for Africa coming from the G-20, an organisation representing the world’s wealthiest 20 economies. The Marshall Plan, I need not remind you Mr President, was a post-war bailout of billions of dollars from the US to help rebuild Europe after the Second World War.

Whatever niggling doubts you ever had about the history you were taught, Mr President, whatever suspicions you had that perhaps that colonial worldview you heard was imperfect, were instantly dismissed in that moment. Whatever fear you once had that perhaps the history of Europe’s engagement with Africa was not all you had been taught it was, vanished in that one moment.

Because, after all, here was a real, live African standing in front of you and the rest of the world’s richest countries, with an actual begging bowl in his hands, asking for help. What further evidence is required for the European saviour narrative than an African in Paris before the world’s richest leaders asking for a new Marshall Plan?

Now you, Mr President, are known for always maintaining your cool, your composure. Even after your stunning electoral upset, your inauguration speech was just two sentences long.

And so even as black skins across the globe collectively crawled, even as we squirmed in our loin cloths, cringed in our cow dung houses and hid in our trees, we had hope that our global embarrassment at this latest exposure by one of our own, would be saved by your legendary composure.

Alas, it was not to be.

For three and a half

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minutes, you told the immutable, unchallengeable truth to our faces.

“The challenge of Africa, it is much deeper, it is civilisational today,” you told us to our faces. “Failed states, complex democratic transitions, demographic transition, multiple trafficking, security and regional coordination, trafficking drugs, arms trafficking, human trafficking, trafficking in cultural property and violent fundamentalism, Islamist terrorism.”

“When countries still have seven to eight children per woman, you can decide to spend billions of Euros, you will not stabilise anything.”

The truth bomb had been detonated. Mr President, the weight was lifted off your shoulders. The undeniable truth you had been itching to tell the Dark Continent had finally come out. It is, in truth, all Africa’s fault.

Thank you Mr President for this opportunity to once more sip from the chalice of your civilisation. As you mentioned, our problems are civilisational. As Europeans, you hacked through our dense forests and veldts to benevolently hand us the building blocks of civilisation, but once you were gone, we swung back up the trees and resumed our conflicts.

Our “civilisation” has only meant to become better at conflict, better at bad governance, better at drugs and arms, better at terrorism, better at violent fundamentalism and better, apparently, in bed.

However, we would be remiss if we didn’t inform you Mr President, that there are murmurs among the natives. Some are saying the history you have been taught is not only incorrect, but offensive, racist and obscene. There are those whispering that your reliance on that warped history reveals the weaknesses in your own intellect and ability to cogitate.

In the trees, some are saying your paradigm and speech are eerily similar to a predecessor, one Nicholas Sarkozy, who in 2007 told stunned Africans in Dakar that: “The African peasant only knew the eternal renewal of time, marked by the endless repetition of the same gestures. ... In this universe where nature rules everything ... there is neither room for human endeavour nor the idea of progress”.

We would not presume to tell you Mr President, to read more history or examine more facts, or even spend more time researching the truth. Neither would we recommend you study France and Europe’s role in the enslavement of Africa, the stripping of its resources, the subjugation of its culture or the latter day post-colonial perversion of governance, entrenchment of dependency and others.

Whatever you do, do not read too much into your predecessors’ manipulations of African political discourse, assassinations, abductions, exterminations or the aforementioned “poverty, conflict, disease, hunger and misery” your predecessors have facilitated in their under-development of Africa and the single-minded, amoral pursuit of French self-interest.

The trees are whispering Mr President, but you do not have to listen to what they are saying.

We, rather, would advise that you focus your energies on your latest visitor, the aforementioned Mr Trump, who is in your area for high level talks this week, while we, in the words of your predecessor, “continue with the endless repetition of gestures where nature rules”. Or, put another way, we’re going back to bed.

 

Sincerely,

A real, live African.

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