chapter  27
Still “getting away with it”: France’s Africa defense and security policy
ByBoubacar N’Diaye
Pages 14

A generation ago, the provocative title of an article seemed to have aptly captured what was then an indisputable puzzle for students of Franco-African relations, and many lay Africans: “A certain Mystery: How Can France Do Everything That It Does in Africa and Get Away with It?” its author mused (Golan 1981). Then, only twenty years after it had granted political independence to most of its former colonial possessions, and at the height of the Cold War, France was indeed omnipresent in its former colonies on the continent and seemed to always have its own way, as Tamar Golan convincingly illustrated. France was indeed the unabashed gendarme de l’Afrique (Africa’s policeman), as the cliché went. It pulled out military interventions as it saw fit, and its presidents, veritable overlords over Francophone Africa, carried on questionable, even unsavory, relations with their African counterparts. So in control of most of Francophone Africa was France that one of its Prime Ministers had no qualms proclaiming that merely “with 500 men” France could determine the fate of the continent (Marshall and Banégas 2005: 6).