The concept of françafrique, the system of French colonial and neo-colonial control and dominance of its colonies in Africa is much more than a series of treaties or Pactes Coloniale with the African countries. It represents the institutionalised direct interaction of major French business interests with African political leaders, primarily through the commonality of the French Masonic movements, and the executive actions of the "Africa Cell" of the French Presidency. Its strength lies in the economic control of African economies through the CFA franc zones and the stationing of French troops in strategic bases across Africa with the impunity attached to the carte blanche for French intervention created by mutual defence treaties between France and its client states.
Virtually all the francophone African leaders are in participants in collaboration with the elite cadre of French businessmen and politicians who are the backbone of French Masonic lodges. African Freemasons are affiliated to the same lodges as the French business and political groups. It is impossible to understand how Fran ç afrique works without reference to the Masons. The French Masons represent the elite of French business and politics, Most of them were educated together at the same two schools and most pursue a career in the administration of the French government or the administration of French business.
Freemason lodges maintain a formidable, covert influence within the French judicial and police structures. All three Freemason lodges in France have gained reputations in recent years for being caught out peddling political influence and pursuing false invoicing on state contracts, particularly in companies controlled by the state. Freemasons in the judiciary hamper any investigations through bureaucratic measures designed to torpedo any serious attempt at reform. One of the topmost grievances raised by the muzzled Press is the Grande Lodge National Française's (GLNF) open-armed embrace of brutal or corrupt African dictators who are Masons. The other two Grand Lodges are no different.
Just as in France, Freemasonry is ubiquitous at the very top in many African states. Denis Sassou Nguesso, the Congolese president, is Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Congo -- Brazzaville linked to the National Grand Lodge of France; President Mamadou Tandja of Niger; Chad's Idriss Deby and François Bozize' of the Central African Republic are among at least twelve African presidents linked to the Masons. In November 2009 Ali Bongo, the new Gabonese President was ordained as the grand master of the Grand Lodge of Gabon (GLB) and the Grand Equatorial Rite, the two predominant Freemason orders in Gabon.
In Congo-Brazzaville, both the current president, Denis Sassou Nguesso, and the former president, Pascal Lissouba, are freemasons, although they belong to different chapters of the order. Mr Lissouba is an initiate of the Grand Orient of France while Mr Sassou Nguesso belongs to a Senegalese lodge affiliated to the French Grand National Lodge. Most of these African presidents, but not exclusively, are francophone: Paul Biya, president of Cameroon , Blaise Campaore, president of Burkina Faso; Robert Guei, former head of Côte d'Ivoire; John Kuffuor, former president of Ghana, to name but a few. There are scores more at Cabinet level and among those who are staffing African regional organisations and banks.
The Masons have always provided the leaders and the staff of French colonialism. The Grand Orient established its first lodge at Saint-Louis in Senegal in 1781 and, as a consequence, the names of a number of distinguished Freemasons are to be found in the history of French colonial rule. The great French empire builder, Jules Ferry, was a Freemason. Their business with their African lodge brothers is done in parallel with the official French policy towards its former colonies. As in the other aspect of Franco-African interaction, their work is largely done in secret, away from the public eye.
Even more clandestine is the French executive's role in françafrique. A lot of the research on fran ç afrique was conducted by François Xavier Verschave, who coined the term He wrote twenty books and innumerable articles on the subject and he described the secret control system of its leaders as "the secret criminality in the upper echelons of French politics and economy, where a kind of underground Republic is hidden from view." A lot of this ability to hide what it happening derives from two interlinked processes -- the absence of any democratic procedures in the French political system for debating African policy and the empowered French Masons (and their African Presidential lodge brothers) who act to enforce the narrow interests of French business throughout Africa using the institutions of the French State. In return the African Presidents pay a tithe to the French politicians which funds French political parties and candidates and enriches others on a personal basis.
Unlike in ordinary democracies, the French version of democracy is a special case. By tradition in France, foreign affairs are the French president's private domain. The foreign affairs minister only applies his policies. France is the only Western country where foreign policy is not a debating topic in the national legislative bodies. The sovereignty of the French people does not count for anything even if it has elected the president directly. The Parliament has no checking powers and is quietly relegated to domestic matters. African policy is the personal preserve of the President of the Republic and his team of two or three advisers and assistants; usually from the Ministry of Defence, the DGSE and the Special African advisor. African policy is the policy of the Presidential palace. Men like Foccart, Pasqua, de Bonnecorse translated the President's wishes and whims into an African policy. The National Assembly, the political parties and the ministries are marginally involved and certainly don't get to vote on African policies. French African policies are French Presidential policies; no more so than under Mitterand, Chirac and Sarkozy.
Beyond the Presidential and Masonic relations between African politicians and the French state, the whole edifice is supported by the learned dependency of these African states on the continuing control of the French over their economies, currency, fiscal policy and preferential trade policies. After the referendum on independence in 1958, when only Guinea voted for immediate independence, the other French African colonies agreed to become "independent' under certain conditions. They agreed at independence to be bound by the Pacte Colonial; the agreement signed between France and its newly-liberated African colonies which locked these colonies into the economic and military embrace of France. This Colonial Pact not only created the institution of the CFA franc, it created a legal mechanism under which France obtained a special place in the political and economic life of its colonies.
The Pacte Colonial Agreement enshrined a special preference for France in the political, commercial and defence processes in the African countries. On defence it agreed two types of continuing contact. The first was the open agreement on military co-operation or Technical Military Aid (AMT) agreements, which weren't legally binding, and could be suspended according to the circumstances. They covered education, training of servicemen and African security forces. The second type, secret and binding, were defence agreements supervised and implemented by the French Ministry of Defence, which served as a legal basis for French interventions. These agreements allowed France to have predeployed troops in Africa; in other words, French army units present permanently and by rotation in bases and military facilities in Africa; run entirely by the French and solely under French control.
The colonial pact maintained the French control over the economies of the African states; it took possession of their foreign currency reserves; it controlled the strategic raw materials of the country; it stationed troops in the country with the right of free passage; it demanded that all military equipment be acquired from France; it took over the training of the police and army; it required that French businesses be allowed to maintain monopoly enterprises in key areas (water, electricity, ports, transport, energy, etc.). France not only set limits on the imports of a range of items from outside the franc zone but also set minimum quantities of imports from France. These treaties are largely still in force and operational.
Perhaps the apogee of French control of its "independent' African confreres was the creation and maintenance of a common currency in these territories, the CFA franc. There are actually two separate CFA francs in circulation. The first is that of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) which comprises eight West African countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo). The second is that of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) which comprises six Central African countries (Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon), This division corresponds to the pre-colonial AOF (Afrique Occidentale Française) and the AEF (Afrique Équatoriale Française), with the exception that Guinea-Bissau was formerly Portuguese and Equatorial Guinea Spanish).
Each of these two groups issues its own CFA franc. The WAEMU CFA franc is issued by the BCEAO (Banque Centrale des Etats de l'Afrique de l'Ouest) and the CEMAC CFA franc is issued by the BEAC (Banque des Etats de l'Afrique Centrale). These currencies were originally both pegged at 100 CFA for each French franc but, after France joined the European Community's Euro zone at a fixed rate of 6.65957 French francs to one Euro, the CFA rate to the Euro was fixed at CFA 665,957 to each Euro, maintaining the 100 to 1 ratio.
The monetary policy governing such a diverse aggregation of countries is uncomplicated because it is, in fact, operated by the French Treasury, without reference to the central fiscal authorities of any of the WAEMU or the CEMAC states. Under the terms of the agreement which set up these banks and the CFA the Central Bank of each African country is obliged to keep at least 65% of its foreign exchange reserves in an "operations account" held at the French Treasury, as well as another 20% to cover financial liabilities.
The CFA central banks also impose a cap on credit extended to each member country equivalent to 20% of that country's public revenue in the preceding year. Even though the BEAC and the BCEAO have an overdraft facility with the French Treasury, the drawdowns on those overdraft facilities are subject to the consent of the French Treasury. The final say is that of the French Treasury which has invested the foreign reserves of the African countries in its own name on the Paris Bourse.
In short, more than 85% of the foreign reserves of these African countries are deposited in the "operations accounts" controlled by the French Treasury. The two CFA banks are African in name, but have no monetary policies of their own. The countries themselves do not know, nor are they told, how much of the pool of foreign reserves held by the French Treasury belongs to them as a group or individually. The earnings of the investment of these funds in the French Treasury pool are supposed to be added to the pool but no accounting is given to either the banks or the countries of the details of any such changes. The limited group of high officials in the French Treasury who have knowledge of the amounts in the "operations accounts", where these funds are invested; whether there is a profit on these investments; are prohibited from disclosing any of this information to the CFA banks or the central banks of the African states.