How Africa fell out of love with France

On Wednesday last week, a new Gabonese military junta installed itself, having ousted President Ali Bongo, whose family have ruled the country since 1967. Just two days earlier, the French President Emmanuel Macron gave a speech to his ambassadors in which he spoke of an ‘epidemic of putschs’ in what was formerly France’s greatest sphere of post-colonial influence. Although most of these states have been independent for decades, Paris kept them firmly in the French orbit There have now been six coups d’état in francophone sub-Saharan Africa in three years – Mali, Chad, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Niger and now the small but wealthy nation of Gabon. France’s whole African policy

My French lesson has taken a most unexpected turn

‘Alas, David can’t be here this afternoon,’ I told the French teacher as she let me into her light and spacious home. ‘He has an appointment to see a specialist about his ears.’ I tried to say this in French. Conversational exchanges that take place between her front door and the lesson table are usually conducted under a flag of truce and she restricted her expressions of gaping horror to a minimum. ‘His ears?’ she said. ‘Poor David! What is wrong with his ears?’ ‘I think he was blown up by a shell,’ I said. ‘And his eardrums were damaged in the explosion.’ Our French teacher lives a quiet and

Paris’s banlieues are burning once again

One of the persistent misconceptions of the riots that swept through France in the autumn of 2005 is that they were solely the result of the deaths of two youths as they ran from the police. The deaths of the teenagers on October 27 in Clichy-Montfermeil provoked unrest in the north-eastern Parisian suburb but it was what happened three days later that led to three weeks of nationwide riots and the declaration of a state of emergency by the then president of France, Jacques Chirac. According to Gilles Kepel in his 2015 book, Terror in France: genesis of the French Jihad, it was a stray tear gas grenade fired by