Patrice Talon: political kamikaze or counter-fire technician?

Taking advantage of an interview he gave to two French media, the President of Benin, Mr. Talon was incredibly talkative about the CFA franc (the franc of the French colonies in Africa), a taboo subject for most presidents of African countries using this monkey currency. Since this release, President Talon, who before this interview was strongly criticized by all for his authoritarian style of governance and his management of the Beninese economy, has received support from all over Africa. In the space of an interview, President Talon went from tyrant, gravedigger of the republic to patriot, courageous defender of the interests of African countries. The transformation was done at 360° as if by magic. Given the nature of the subject and the reactions produced by President Talon’s exit, the following question can be asked: Does Patrice Talon play the political kamikaze, or is he a counterfire technician? This question has a particular value today. Let’s look at the two hypotheses.

Patrice Talon: a political Kamikaze 

It is undeniable that President Talon has shown recklessness in speaking out as he did to the French press. The question of the CFA franc has cost the lives of several African heads of state: Olympio from Togo, Sankara from Burkina Faso, Keita from Mali. The list is long. For decades France has claimed to have offered the sheep of independence and the CFA franc to African countries. Strangely enough, France continues and holds the rope. The French authorities claim that the CFA franc belongs to Africans. At the same time, they say they are ready for bold reform. The choice of words has its full meaning. The French Minister of Economy, Bruno Lemaire, added: “We see that in the unstable world we live in, being together protects us. The initiative must come from the Member States of the franc zone. It is up to them to decide freely, what they want as evolution, as transformation. What I can tell you is that the President of the Republic is ready for an ambitious reform of the franc zone. But I repeat, it is up to the Member States in the area to take the initiative, to make proposals and to measure how far they want to go. “The Mayor does two essential things in this statement. First, it isolates the French-speaking countries, users of the CFA Franc, from the rest of the ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) member countries. By saying that “it is up to the Member States of the zone, to take the initiative, to make proposals”, France denies the right of scrutiny of Nigeria and Ghana (the two strongest economies in ECOWAS). Ghana and Nigeria, in the context of the creation of the ECOWAS common currency (ECO), have asked countries that use the CFA franc to dissociate themselves from France in order to build a more solid monetary union that guarantees the interests of African peoples. But as we said earlier, African countries seem to be forced to accept to keep the sheep and leave the rope to the thief, in our example France. The French constraint is illustrated by the words of the French minister. Since it openly threatens African countries. Otherwise, what do African presidents mean by: “measure how far they want to go”? We must not look too far. It is the lifeless bodies of their counterparts killed or driven out of power by mercenaries paid by France that is in the minds of African presidents the unit of measure! Also, when the Mayor says: “We see that in the unstable world we live in, being together protects. “, Africans not being fooled know what he is referring to. The West African region has been suffering from terrorist attacks for several years. France is deploying its troops there. No few leaders will want to alienate such an “ally”.

So you have to be a suicide bomber to speak like President Talon. We do not criticize the CFA franc and French politics in Africa without wearing gloves. The African Union Ambassador to New York, Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao, learned this very bitterly. For having done her job as an ambassador, by denouncing French politics and its disasters in Africa, she was stupidly relieved of her duties. These are the facts that make Mr. Talon the hero of the moment. Does he deserve all the glory he is being given at this time? Is he as brave as he seems? Or is there something else behind the exit?

Patrice Talon: a backfire technician

What if Mr. Talon had calculated everything? What if what we all greet as a reckless act was not but had other objectives? This is the point of view we defend in this chapter. Mr. Talon’s businessman biography and political power management leave their mark on the fact that he never does anything gratuitous. We still remember his jest: “I always think of myself first. ” launched in an interview also given to the French media. Talon’s exit would be a strategy, a three-variable counter-fire technique.

First, Mr. Talon would be a spokesman for France. Under these conditions, it would then be the counter-fire used by France to save furniture in the controversy over the CFA franc. Indeed, in recent months, African civil societies have been rising to the occasion to ask France to give back to Africans what it has been forcibly stealing from them for centuries. The CFA franc crystallizes the debates. If the omerta around the issue had allowed both France and African elites to continue to plunder, and to manage African resources in an opaque manner, the requirement of transparency wanted by African civil societies makes things more complicated. Instead of losing control, France could have put in Mr. Talon’s mouth the solution that best guarantees his interests. In this case, our hero is nothing more than a parrot who has learned all the dirt that his master secretly tells us all day long, and rehearses as soon as the first visitor walks through the door of the house.

Secondly, President Talon would like to satisfy Nigeria’s demands, which has made it a condition for the implementation of the ECOWAS currency that the countries using the CFA franc be disconnected from the French treasury. This hypothesis seems more plausible than the first one. Indeed, for almost three months now, Nigeria has closed its borders with Benin. This fuzzy closure leads to speculation that Nigeria would have decided to do so to protect its economy and territory from attacks by Beninese smugglers. But further reflection shows that it is the neo-colonial model in which the eight countries that use the CFA franc wallow that poses a problem. Nigeria having become the cow that these countries milk to blood to feed the interests of France and the predatory petty bourgeoisie represented by Mr. Talon himself! Announcing the break-up of the colonial cordon that links the CFA user countries to France should relax “the great eastern neighbour” and push it to reopen the borders to give Benin and Talon itself some oxygen, since since since 2016, the affairs of the Beninese state have been dangerously confused with the affairs of the businessman, Patrice Talon.

Tercio, Mr. Talon would like to do all the things that have gone wrong in recent years by lighting a backfire. For anyone who has observed the socio-political situation in Benin over the past thirty years, will easily notice that Benin has made considerable progress, which unfortunately has quickly crumbled under the heels of President Talon. When he came to power, President Talon brought hope and enthusiasm to Beninese and African youth. After three years of power management, the results are bitter, disappointing and macabre: the announced development has not come, unemployment has skyrocketed, jobs have been destroyed without alternative means, public and individual freedoms have been flouted, prisons are being filled with political prisoners, freedom of the press is a distant memory, exclusive elections have been held, a civil war has been fought and the massacre of people expressing their dissatisfaction. President Talon, who triumphantly came to power, is now a shadow of himself. At least before its explosive release on the CFA franc. But this new aura of President Talon is a sham. Because in the same interview, while proclaiming that the end of the CFA franc system, Patrice Talon praised the merits of the same system! This may seem paradoxical. However, the CFA franc system has been and still is for the benefit of Mr. Talon and others in his category. The only people who really suffer are the poor people who live in countries that use the CFA franc. In short, to think that President Talon would suddenly become an economic rights defender for the poor in Africa is a sham. His speech is a counter-attack to save his skin after the human rights violations committed in Benin.

In conclusion, what is said here is only a point of view on a situation. Even if President Talon is using a sensitive subject to rebuild his political health, he must be given credit for having opened the debate on the CFA franc. After this release, no minister will come forward to say that Africans must take the lead.

Author: Akéouli Baoum

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