To expose his conception of Franco-African relations, necessarily renewed according to the promise of all campaigning candidates, Jean-Luc Mélenchon had planned a ten-day tour of the Sahel with visits to Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso. The restrictions due to Covid-19 and the parliamentary debate in France on the health pass finally led him to focus his trip over four days, from July 18 to 21, and one country.
Inevitably, the choice fell on Burkina Faso for a visit to a nation which is proud of its protests. A trip to a friendly country – accompanied by Mathilde Panot, vice-president of the La France insoumise (LFI) group in the Assembly, and the deputy for Seine-Saint-Denis Bastien Lachaud – with its official stages and tributes to revolutionary figures past and present. Mr. Mélenchon was thus entitled to an interview with President Kaboré who received him “With a form of courtesy and brotherhood” despite its status as an opponent.
He also sought inspiration from the Citizen’s Broom, a flagship movement of “The citizen revolution” of 2014 which led to the downfall of President Blaise Compaoré. Mr. Mélenchon, finally, greeted as it should for any left-wing personality passing through the memory of Thomas Sankara, “High figure of rebellion”. The LFI group had requested, in 2017, the opening of the French archives on the assassination of this captain thirty years earlier.
Opposition to Operation “Barkhane”
Burkina Faso is the ideal place to hold a discourse of rupture aimed at a youth of French-speaking Africa who openly expresses their mistrust of the former colonizer. Emmanuel Macron had thus deliberately chosen in November 2017 the University of Ouagadougou to ensure in front of a dubious audience. “That there is no longer an African policy for France” and start a story where “Africa is neither a cumbersome past nor a neighbor among others”.
Less than a year before the presidential election, Jean-Luc Mélenchon has therefore come to follow in the footsteps of the Head of State, but with the stated ambition to erase his trace. Wednesday, July 21, in the same Joseph-Ki-Zerbo university known for its rebellious spirit, he tried to voice “Another voice of France”, necessarily free from the ailments of “Imperialism”, of “Neocolonialism” and “Paternalism”.
The LFI deputy thus reiterated his opposition to the “Barkhane” operation, which is on the way out, and deplored the lack of consultation on the intervention in the Sahel, of which President Macron has announced a reduction in staff. “There is no military solution to a political problem. The first to say it were the soldiers from my country. I cannot stand that we have been at war for eight years and that we have only discussed it once in the National Assembly ”, he denounced once again, before saying to himself, if he is elected, “Ready to cancel all defense agreements” which link Paris with several African capitals in the event of an external attack. “The departure of the French army is when you want! “, he launched to his young audience.
While one of the first concerns of the Burkinabés is the loss of control of their state in the face of jihadist groups, Jean-Luc Mélenchon delivered his vision of the fight that must be waged. “I believe in ideological warfare, in social war (…), to the financing war ” against groups he says he has “Little doubts about religious motivations”.
“He is not there for us, he talks to the French”
For him, at the root of all evils are “Of the powerful”, animated by logics of monopolization to which the realization of “A common horizon”. Its tool to restore the bridges between a France where is strengthened “An unbearable xenophobic feeling” and an Africa where the anti-French feeling “Is heartbreaking” ? A French language and a Creolized world. “I know what suspicions weigh on the Francophonie. An instrument of French imperialism ”, he conceded. But, according to him, “Language is common use”, “A common good” for 300 million alleged speakers. “I call for a francophone language that is a language of opinions and projects”, he pleaded, drawing the battles to come: against “Big Pharma” in the current health crisis, against climate change with the creation of a force “To intervene whenever there is a disaster” and for “Food sovereignty, where it was understood in Burkina Faso faster than elsewhere”.
At the end of two hours of speeches and exchanges, in the audience the opinions were divided between those conquered by the ardor of the denunciation and those returning from all the promises coming from elsewhere. None was fooled by intentions. “He is not there for us, he talks to the French”, judged Kelgwendé Sawadogo, a 28-year-old philosophy student. In particular to an electorate from African immigration, part of which keeps a close eye on statements relating to the continent. Jean-Luc Mélenchon repeated during his trip that he had come “To learn and not to give lessons”. A demonstration of humility that looks like a number of seduction.