The detention of Gabon’s long-time leader in the latest African coup has sparked significant changes in France’s traditional approach towards its former colonies. While France condemned the takeover, its response was notably subdued, signaling a departure from the postcolonial tradition of “Françafrique” that characterized its relationship with African nations for decades.

Side note: Françafrique is an unflattering term that refers to France’s longstanding political, economic, and military influence over its former African colonies.

France’s Influence in Africa: The End of an Era

In the past, France often acted as the guardian of stability in its former colonies, intervening militarily when necessary to protect its interests and influence. However, as Africa gains greater self-confidence and diversifies its global partnerships, the era of France as Africa’s “gendarme” (armed policeman) appears to be waning.

“In the old days of ‘Françafrique,’ this coup would not have happened, and if it did, it would have been quickly reversed,” remarked Peter Pham, a former US envoy for Africa’s Sahel region, highlighting the contrast with France’s muted response to the Gabon coup.

Anti-French Sentiment on the Rise

Recent years have witnessed a common thread linking coups in several African countries, all of which were once French colonies. Gabon, in particular, maintained warm relations with France, with President Ali Bongo Ondimba meeting French President Emmanuel Macron in June in Paris.