chapter  4
24 Pages

Authorizing Hegemony: French Power and Military Cooperation, 1960-1994

The first part of this book examined how republican France, colonial France, the Other, and the political have been defined and redefined in the last 150 years. I argued that the colonial dichotomy between civilization and barbarism survived decolonization,

and is reflected to this day in the post-Cold War liberal triumphalism. I also argued that this dichotomy and, more importantly, its subsequent practices are obscured by the symbolic state. The combination of the symbolic state with the civilization-

barbarism dualism strongly limits the range of possible policy options. The main

objective of this second part is to establish how these constructions inform, shape,

influence, and determine current French security policy in sub-Saharan Africa. In the first two chapters, I argued that security is not an answer to threats alone,

but a practice of authorization to manage and create insecurity. Hence, security

policy and its rhetoric are also strategies of deterrence against existing and latent

challengers to the dominant political order. Put another way, security policy is not

only about what “is,” but also about “what ought to be.” At the heart of French power in Africa there are ever-changing material conditions (economic, political,

and military structures, instruments, and institutions) that maintain Black Africa in a quasi-permanent state of underdevelopment and dependency. But these material conditions draw their authority and legitimacy from a process of “naturalization,” of the transformation of the “ought to be” into the “is.” As Antonio Gramsci writes:

The process of securitization in Africa is about controlling the “ought to be.” French security policy is not about promoting peace and security alone, but about

continuously maintaining and restructuring French power. This is not to argue that

French security policy is all hypocrisy. Many French politicians and military officers sincerely believe in their endeavours. Many others, however, seem not to care about

the disastrous effects of the policy on the lives of millions of Africans, or simply

rationalize these negative effects. But in the end, it is not about whether or not France

means it. It is about the end result and the consequences for humans. French hegemony in sub-Saharan Africa is multifaceted. In this chapter and

the next, I will very briefly examine the most important aspects. My focus is on security policy (or military power) though for two crucial reasons. First, my focus is on security because as Chipman (1989, 12) argues, “it is the links created by military co-operation and defence agreements that are most important in explaining

the endurance of French influence in Africa.” Secondly, my focus is on security because we are witnessing a form of militarization/securitization of Africa. That is,

security and military projects, problems, and solutions are prioritized over any other.