West Africans' Resistance Against French Hegemony Featured

By Gamal Khattab September 19, 2023 3697

The struggle against neocolonialism and hegemony in West Africa has been an integral part of the region's history.   We will explore the multifaceted nature of West Africans' struggle, highlighting the various strategies employed and the underlying motivations for their resistance.

  1. Historical Context:
    To comprehend West Africans' resistance against French neocolonialism, a historical examination of the colonial period is crucial. France's presence in the region for over a century laid the foundation for neocolonial practices. This context helps us understand the significance of the subsequent resistance movements.
  2. Economic Exploitation:
    One key motivation underlying West Africans' resistance was the economic exploitation inflicted upon native populations. The French implemented extractionist policies, exploiting natural resources and labor.

Here are some examples of French economic exploitation to West Africans:  

  • Forced labor: During French colonial rule in West Africa, millions of Africans were forced to work on plantations, mines, and other projects. They were often paid very little or nothing at all, and they were subjected to harsh and inhumane conditions.
  • Confiscation of land: The French also confiscated large amounts of land from Africans, which they then gave to French settlers or used for commercial purposes. This left many Africans landless and impoverished.
  • Extraction of resources: France exploited West Africa's rich natural resources, such as gold, diamonds, and timber, for its own benefit. The French exported these resources to Europe, where they were used to fuel the Industrial Revolution.
  • Trade restrictions: The French imposed trade restrictions on West Africa that benefited French businesses. For example, they prohibited West Africans from trading with other countries without French permission.
  • Monetary policy: The CFA franc, the currency used in many West African countries, is pegged to the euro. This means that the French Treasury has a significant influence over the CFA franc's exchange rate. Some economists argue that the CFA franc's peg to the euro overvalues it and harms West African economies.
  1. Cultural Assault:
    Another aspect of French neocolonialism was the cultural assault on West Africans. French cultural hegemony aimed to supplant local traditions, education, and languages.

These are some specific examples of French cultural assault in West Africa include:

  • The French colonial government banned the use of African languages in schools and government offices.
  • The French  promoted Christianity through the construction of churches and schools.
  • The French  suppressed traditional African religions by destroying religious sites and banning traditional ceremonies.
  • The French  censored African newspapers and other media outlets.
  • The French promoted French culture by importing French films, music, and books.
  1. Political Resistance:
    Numerous political leaders, such as Kwame Nkrumah, Leopold Senghor, and Thomas Sankara, emerged to challenge French hegemonic control. These leaders advocated for self-governance, national independence, and Pan-African unity, inspiring widespread grassroots movements.

How has France dealt with political resistance leaders in West Africa?

  • Military repression: In the early 20th century, France used military force to suppress resistance movements in West Africa, such as the Touareg Rebellion in Niger and the Bambara Rebellion in Mali.
  • Political assassination: France has also been accused of assassinating political resistance leaders in West Africa. For example, some historians believe that France was involved in the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, the first prime minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  • Economic sanctions: France has also used economic sanctions to pressure political resistance leaders in West Africa. For example, in the 1960s, France imposed economic sanctions on Ghana after its president, Kwame Nkrumah, became a vocal critic of French colonialism.
  • Diplomatic pressure: France has also used diplomatic pressure to try to co-opt or silence political resistance leaders in West Africa. For example, in the 1990s, France worked to isolate and marginalize Laurent Gbagbo, the leader of the opposition party in Côte d'Ivoire.
  1. Armed Struggle:
    In response to French neocolonialism, some West Africans resorted to armed struggle and guerrilla warfare. Some still believe that violence is an inevitable response against deeply entrenched French dominance.
  2. Intellectual Resistance:
    Intellectual resistance against French hegemony was also significant. West African intellectuals, including Léopold Sédar Senghor, Aimé Césaire, and Frantz Fanon, critiqued and deconstructed French neocolonial practices through art, literature, and philosophy. These intellectuals provided a compelling intellectual foundation for resistance, empowering West Africans to challenge the imposed French ideologies

The resistance against French neocolonialism and hegemony in West Africa is a complex tapestry of economic, cultural, political, and intellectual struggles. Understanding this resistance is crucial for developing a comprehensive understanding of West African history and its ongoing struggle for justice and liberation.