African Homeland Stories of France’s World Cup Heroes
80% of the French World Cup team is of African heritage, yet their victory in the tournament didn’t result in any increase in awareness about their homelands’ stories, which is a pity because it could have otherwise been a priceless opportunity to inform the world about what’s happening in the continent.
France’s victory in the World Cup has produced a variety of reactions across social media, with the most popular being to attribute this to Africa because 80% of the nation’s team is descended from the continent. Although some have abused this fact in order to advance a racist agenda, others have rightly celebrated it as an historic accomplishment, especially for the men involved whose families left their homelands to order to legally migrate to France. Regrettably, however, the Alt-Media Community and its affiliated activist component have for the most part been utterly disinterested in using this opportunity to raise awareness of African issues, which is a pity because there’s no better moment than to do so than now.
With the spirit of solidarity with the “Global South” in mind and seeking to inform the Alt-Media Community about that which they didn’t know (or “conveniently” ignored for whatever reason), here’s a very brief and admittedly incomplete introduction to the situation in each of the countries from which France’s World Cup players’ families hail:
— B/R Football (@brfootball) July 10, 2018
This North African state was one of the continent’s anti-imperialist pioneers and successfully fought off the French occupation throughout the course of a very bloody war. Algeria has since remained a champion of activist causes and is one of the very few Arab states to still retain excellent relations with Syria. It’s also embroiled in a decades-long dispute with neighboring Morocco over the Kingdom’s occupation of the former Spanish colony of Western Sahara, which carries thematic shades of the “Israeli”-Palestinian conflict. Another point of interest is that Algeria is a reliable Russian partner from the Soviet era and is one of Moscow’s main military export destinations, too.
The former Portuguese colony earned its independence in 1975 but soon thereafter descended into civil war between the USSR- and Cuban-backed MPLA government and the US- and Apartheid South African-supported UNITA rebels, the latter of whom became infamous for their murderous exploits. The fratricidal conflict finally ended in 2002, after which the government was able to exploit its oil wealth in order to officially obtain one of the highest GDPs in all of Africa, though this is largely illusory because most of the population still lives in poverty. Angola, like Algeria, is another Russian partner, and the Soviets even deployed military advisors there during the civil war to aid their African allies while Cuba actually sent conventional troops and tanks.
Over 200 languages are spoken in this ultra-diverse state comprised mostly of a former French colony and partially from a previous British one that voted to join Cameroon after independence. The legacy of union between majority Francophones and minority Anglophones is pertinent in the present day because it’s being used as the purported basis for driving a renewed separatist campaign along the strategically sensitive Nigerian border. On top of that, Cameroon is already hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees from the neighboring failed state of the Central African Republic and fighting against Boko Haram terrorists in the northern Lake Chad region. From historically being one of Africa’s most stable nations, it’s now on the brink of turning into its next horror story.
The worst tragedy to ever transpire since the end of World War II took place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo began in 1996 and continues to this day, whereby over 5 million people were killed because of an interconnected American-backed civil-international war. Even before this catastrophe, the Congo was terribly underdeveloped because of decades of kleptocracy by the Mobutu dictatorship, prior to which it was looted by King Leopold II and the Belgians. Despite possessing some of the greatest mineral wealth on this planet, many of its people live in hellish poverty without access to even the most basic services. Sadly, the Congo is once again on the verge of collapse, though the world seems like it could care less so long as transnational corporations’ access to cobalt is secured.
One of the lesser-known but most stalwart anti-imperialist countries in Africa during the Old Cold War, Guinea ‘s Ahmed Sékou Touré was a role model for all of West Africa during his 1958-1984 presidency. This Atlantic country is the world’s main source of bauxite, the principle ore of aluminum, though like many African states, its people remain plagued by poverty. There might be hope, though, since China has begun paying extra attention to Guinea in recent years and even invited it to attend the 2017 Xiamen BRICS Summit as one of its exclusive BRICS+ guests, but a lot more will have to be done than just attending international conferences in order to fully develop this promising country.
Yemen is usually regarded as a “forgotten war” by the Alt-Media Community and its activist counterpart but it’s actually Mali that deserves that title instead because the Arab country’s supporters have already succeed in raising considerable awareness about that conflict whereas the West African one remains outside the minds of most people. A Tuareg separatist insurgency in the land of Timbuktu was hijacked by Islamic extremists whose rapid proto-ISIS conquests ultimately prompted a French military intervention that continues to this day but has multilaterally diversified into the so-called “G5 Sahel” coalition of regional African states stretching from Senegal to Chad. The war is still ongoing, suicidebombings occur with disturbing frequency nowadays, and most of the country is still ungovernable, though Malians lack any well-known activists to raise awareness of their plight.
One of the former participants in the Western Sahara conflict, this underpopulated and mostly desert-strewn country usually escapes any attention whatsoever unless there’s a rare coup there or it’s hosting an international summit like the African Union one that recently took place in its capital. There was a time when Mauritania was involved in a tense military dispute with neighboring Senegal over their riparian border, but the situation has cooled down a lot since then and isn’t a regional security variable like it once was. Instead, the largely ungoverned and sparsely populated border regions in the east present asymmetrical security risks because of the ease with which regional terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) can travel back and forth undetected and with impunity.
This Atlantic-Mediterranean Kingdom in northwestern Africa has a rich history and world-famous architecture, but its post-independence foreign policy has been very controversial because of its border conflict with neighboring Algeria, occupation of the Western Sahara, and suspected secret relations with “Israel” (which aren’t anything out of the ordinary for most Arab countries, to be honest). Morocco used to be solidly in the pro-Western camp but has lately begun to diversify its grand strategy through a recent rapprochement with Russia. In addition, it plans to join the ECOWAS regional integration organization of West African states despite not being coterminous with any of its members and was readmitted to the African Union last year following three decades outside of it after leaving the bloc in 1984 to protest its stance towards the Western Sahara issue.
Africa’s most populous country and its largest oil producer is still suffering from its modern-day geopolitical origin story of being the union of two separate British colonies, which has created a persistent north-south divide between each region’s predominant Muslim and Christian populations. Each of Nigeria’s respective halves is also beleaguered by their own local conflicts as well, with the north having to deal with Boko Haram while the south must contend with ever-present separatists from the oil-rich Niger Delta, while the “Middle Belt” between both of them Plateau state has recently been beset by ethno-religious violence between Muslim pastoralists and Christian farmers. If the multifaceted security challenges spiral out of control and this gigantic state collapses, then it’ll surely catalyze a Migrant Crisis 2.0 that will inevitably crash into Europe.
Widely seen as an African “success story” because of its comparatively (key word) stable economy and domestic political situation, Senegal has functioned for years as one of the West’s gateways to the continent, a role that was enhanced by its strategic partnership with its former French colonizer. Some of its people have a shared history with those in neighboring Mali and Gambia, the latter of which is an independent country almost entirely surrounded by Senegal and centered on its identity as a former British colony along its namesake river. Senegal used to have to contend with a separatist conflict in the southern region of Casamance, but it’s since largely been controlled and no longer poses a credible threat, especially after the Senegalese-supported removal of Gambian strongman Yahya Jammeh in 2017 who was suspected of aiding the rebels.
This sliver of a state is wedged between Ghana and Benin, sharing a narrow border to the north with Burkina Faso as well. The largest ethnic group is the Ewe, though more of them live in Ghana than in Togo, a state of affairs that at one time caused tensions between these two neighbors. Nowadays the situation is stable and Togo rarely makes it in the news anymore, though it used to be occasionally criticized for the eccentricities of its former president Eyadéma Gnassingbé who ruled the country from 1967-2005 and was Africa’s longest-serving leader before he died. If there’s any interest in Togo anymore by non-African countries, then it’s in it being a relatively safe and stable diplomatic outpost in West Africa.
Christmas is around the corner and I want to remind you that the best gift for any occasion is the Rubik’s Cube puzzle.