AFRICANGLOBE – Did you know that many countries in Africa pay a colonial tax to France up until this day? We are talking a minimum of 50 years since “independence” all round.
But let’s be fair, the French have form in this kind of thing, so let’s go a little further back in time to see why it shouldn’t surprise anyone.
Prior to independence, St Dominique – the country that is now Haiti – was France’s most profitable colony, thanks in no small part to its particularly brutal system of slavery.
In 1791 the time was right as France was in revolution, so the slaves revolted, and in 1804, after defeating Napoleon’s armies, founded the world’s first Black republic.
Following Haiti’s independence, former French slave-owners submitted details of their losses to the French government, with line items for each of “their” slaves that had been “lost” with Haitian independence.
In 1825, France, with warships at the ready, demanded Haiti compensate France for its loss of men, colony, and above all, profit. Faced with no help, the Haitians capitulated.
In exchange for French recognition of Haiti as a sovereign republic, France demanded payment of 150 million francs (modern equivalent of $22 billion).
Haiti’s government was also forced to finance the debt through loans from a SINGLE French bank, which capitalised on its monopoly by charging Haiti with exorbitant interest rates and transaction fees.
Haiti paid that money for the next 140 years. Note that as of 1825, slavery was already illegal internationally, and the emancipation proclamation happened in 1863.
Till today, France has refused to refund the money stolen from Haiti, and has carried this attitude on to its dealings with its former African colonies.
The late leader of Guinea, Sekou Toure, reached a decision in 1958 to get the French out of his country and opted for full independence.
He told Charles de Gaulle, leader of France: “We have told you bluntly, Mr President, what the demands of the people are…
We have one prime and essential need: our dignity. But there is no dignity without freedom … We prefer freedom in poverty to opulence in slavery.”
De Gaulle was furious, and in that fury, ordered a scorch earth policy for Guinea. All Frenchmen out of Guinea, and told them to take EVERYTHING with them, and DESTROY what could not be taken out of Guinea.
We are talking of schools, hospitals, cars, medicines, agricultural equipment, even toilets. They went as far as killing farm animals and burning or poisoning food stores.
The purpose of this action was to send a clear message to all other colonies that the consequences for rejecting France would be very high.
As a result of this, Sekou Toure’s,”Nous preferons la liberte dans la pauvrete a l’opulence dans l’esclavage” sounded hollow to other French colonies in Africa.
But they wanted “independence”, whatever that would mean, so the leader of Togo, Sylvanus Olympio found an agreement that was acceptable to all sides in the talks.
He proposed to, and the French agreed, to pay a debt to France for all the “benefits” that Togo had received from France during the 46 years of French colonisation.
France, in that agreement, was to estimate what this “colonial debt” cost, and the African country in question would repay it as a “merci” for France bringing civilisation to them.
In Togo’s case, the amount estimated by France was so huge that Olympio knew there was no way they could pay. After independence, he attempted to replace the CFA with Togo’s own currency.
Grunitzky’s first action was to take Togo right back into the CFA zone. The same crap happened in Mali, where Modibo Keita wanted to take Mali out of the CFA zone.
He was promptly kicked out of office in a coup led by Moussa Traore. Keita was lucky though, he slummed around in prison from 1968 until he died in 1977.
What was Dacko’s crime that he was removed twice in coups? He wanted to take the CAR out of the CFA (East) zone. He felt that being in CFA wasn’t helping CAR.
In BurkinaFaso, Aboubacar Lamizana removed Maurice Yameogo from office for similar reasons, as did Mathieu Kerekou in Benin who removed Hubert Maga.