Rwanda’s Francofolly?

Although Rwanda is at the same time a member of the Commonwealth, whose upcoming 2020 summit will be hosted in Kigali, it has never left the Francophonie.

French philosopher, Michel Foucault, inverted the Clausewitzian saying that ‘war is politics by other means’, arguing that the German philosopher, Carl von Clausewitz’s famous treatise was in fact inverted from an older, original discourse, namely: ‘politics is war by other means’. While the debate was never settled, we retain from it that what’s true for one, can at times be true for the other.

When Louise Mushikiwabo, Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, announced that she would be vying to lead the International Organisation of the Francophonie (OIF), many were taken by surprise.

Africans were all the more stunned with the two decades’ ‘cold war’ between Rwanda and France in mind, with legal, media, political and even diplomatic episodes. To date, France still has no ambassador in Kigali and English has replaced French as the language of education in public schools.

Much has since been said and written in the French speaking sphere. However, it is not lost on me that Africans who do not speak French may still be trying to make sense of it all, others, rather anxious to see the imminent departure of their favourite Foreign Minister.

Elsewhere, young Africans of French expression who suffered the consequences of ‘France-Afrique’ - a neo-colonial discourse from another era, may be amazed that a country which they consider as an ally and a frontrunner in the struggle against neo-colonialism, could become the flag-bearer of an institution symbolising French dominion over its former colonies - as the French media is presenting it: ‘By accepting the appointment of her foreign minister to head the OIF, Rwanda has entered France’s sphere of influence’.

To understand this paradox, let’s refer ourselves to African history and literature:

At the end of the Algerian war in 1962, a debate was held on the place of French language in the newly liberated country. It was then that Algerian writers Kateb Yacine and Mustapha Lacheraf explained in their writings that ‘French language is part of spoils of war, won through blood and sweat from the colonial masters alongside our freedom.’

Their Nigerian counterpart Chinua Achebe wrote the same about all colonial languages; that they are mere spoils of the struggles for independence. That as such, they no longer belong only to France, Portugal or England, but now constitute a common heritage.

Although Rwanda is at the same time a member of the Commonwealth, whose upcoming 2020 summit will be hosted in Kigali, it has never left the Francophonie. French too, was not ‘banned’ in Rwanda as some allege - it is impossible to ban a language. The learning of English was just reinforced - in Rwanda, in France and worldwide. In fact, we may soon begin to learn Mandarin and Arabic, as the need arises.

The Francophonie, like the French language, do not belong the French Republic. They are membership-based common patrimonies and the influences therein, depend on the charisma of one member or another.

The fact that Cabo-Verde, Guinee-Bissau, Guinee-Equatorial or Sao-Tomé and Principe are members of  both the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP) and the Francophonie is proof that the famous ‘sphere of French influence’ is simply an invention of media’s neo-colonial mindset, whence one has the chance to speak more international languages and be part of many linguistic families.

For this, two prerequisites are required: 1. Define our purpose; 2. Seize the opportunity. We have defined our purpose; as a country, but also as a continent, and the time may have come to continue the struggle in more peaceful ways.

Louise Mushikiwabo, current Chair of the Executive Council of the African Union (AU), was unanimously endorsed by the Assembly of Heads of States and governments of the African Union at the Summit in Nouakchott, Mauritania and for the first time in recent memory, Africa will be presenting a unique candidate to lead the Francophonie - a candidature initiated by French President Mr. Emmanuel Macron.

Why is that?

Why does a candidate from a country that has relegated French to the second zone, freely disagrees with France on principles, has been endorsed by African brethren and the youthful French president to lead an organisation symbolising the French establishment?

The answer is simple: The world is changing. Her election is no different from Obama’s election as US president, or Prince Harry’s marriage to Megan Markle: Louise Mushikiwabo represents a hopeful world, one where all are equal; one where all are free. Whether that world is real or aspirational, it is, simply a beautiful world.

Electing Mushikiwabo in October in Erevan-Armenia, will send a message that international organisations are no longer devices of intrigues, rivalry and coup bas, but bridges to outreach and cohesion among nations.

The views expressed in this article are of the author.

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