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Beasts of Burden



noun 1. -the making of amends for a wrong one has done, by paying money to or otherwise helping those who have been wronged.

1) “The courts required a convicted offender to make financial reparation to his victim.”

2). -the compensation for war damage paid by a defeated state. Plural noun: reparations.

Reparations, the idea that compensation (possibly monetary) be allocated to the descendants of the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade (known in some circles as the “Middle Passage”). The idea has been bandied about since the end of the Civil War and Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman’s Special Field Orders No. 15., announcing the famous “40  acres and a mule” provision to the formerly enslaved (a decree which was never fulfilled). This concept gained momentum during the latter part of the 20th Century, as organizations like TransAfrica (or TransAfrica Forum) came into existence (see

Another entity still active is the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America, better known as “N’COBRA”( Most remain vague about what specific physical form these amends should take.

Punitive damages

“We are nothing but flesh out of which taxes may be ground; we are nothing but beasts of burden.” —From “Batouala,” a 1921 novel about French Equatorial Africa by René Maran. Looking back to the end of slavery and the beginnings of Reconstruction, the loss of free labor doubtlessly irked former slaveholders, even without the notion of reparations to those released from bondage.

Within Washington, D.C., a novel plan was put into service to ensure the loyalty of ex-slavers to the union, called “compensated emancipation.” Thusly, they were given $300 as compensation for each slave liberated (this is known as the “District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Act” of 1862). The rest of the Confederacy lost out with the end of the Civil War, and the abolition of slavery. European colonialization was similar (as both largely centered on the domination of African resources, either/or human labor and real estate) in that most of the countries under subjugation eventually gained emancipation, meaning a loss of income generated by these former territories.

France is in a unique position since the countries making up its empire on the African continent achieved independence relatively recently, since the end of World War II. Yet, the French did not willingly accept cutting ties to the cash cow to the south, in spite of global pressure to embrace the “higher moral purpose” en vogue during the 20th Century.

The die was cast, however, and the year 1960 saw the bulk of the Francophone Empire achieve sovereignty (of a sort) as the world moved into the post-colonial era. These include the Central African countries of Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon (all gaining independence in 1960 except for Equatorial Guinea in 1968); along with the West African countries of Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, the Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo(all gaining independence in 1960, except for Guinea-Bissau, independent since1974).These countries also share a financial bond. As a condition of their sovereignty, France would continue to have access to significant portions of their monetary resources, perhaps as a “salve” to ease the pain of lost revenues. As we shall see, this arrangement  would impact these emerging states more then just economically.

Colonial Hangover


noun: the use of economic, political, cultural, or other pressures to control or influence other countries, especially former dependencies.

The above term, coined by Ghanaian President Kwame Nktumah (1960-1966), applies to the former French colonies as well. It signifies a more subtle, nuanced method of geopolitical dominion, as opposed to imperialism, which implies a more heavy-handed approach, involving martial intervention. In a landmark essay titled “The mechanisms of neo-colonialism,” from 1965.  Nktumah observed that “…imperialism simply switches tactics.” Instead of using brute force, the oppressors give “independence to its former subjects, to be followed by “aid” for their development. Under cover of such phrases, however, it devises innumerable ways to accomplish objectives formerly achieved by naked colonialism.

Change in any form is usually accompanied by growing pains, and geopolitical shifts usually follow suit. Resentment over the loss of land and property was followed by a form of acting out, in which the deposed tenants damaged or ruined the physical infrastructure they were forced to leave behind. This was witnessed in Guinea, circa 1958, when resentful Frenchmen absconded to their homeland with everything not nailed down, and destroying anything left behind. Over time, this opposition became more sophisticated, as French General and later President Charles de Gaulle took a lesson learned from tactics used against his Free French forces by the Nazis in World War II. As the German occupiers used the puppet government or “Vichy” regime of French traitors to undermine their countrymen, corruptive elements within individual African states were plied with financial incentives and lavish lifestyles.

Occasionally,  they resorted to the time-honored methodology of intrigue and coup d’état to remove individuals defiant to bribery. In due course, problematic people like Sylvanus Olympio of Togo (1963), and Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso (1987) were violently eliminated. Preferably, these executions were done by proxy, using indigenous groups pliable to outside influences, but occasionally more deliberate individuals and methods are used. An an example would be the poisoning of Cameroonian leader Félix-Roland Moumié by former French Foreign Legionnaire William Bechtel in Geneva, Switzerland circa 1960, in a state-sponsored murder (at the directive of the SDECE, the French Secret Service agency).

France’s ‘Colonial Tax’

“Without Africa, France will have no history in the 21st Century”  -François Mitterrand, French President 1981 to 1995.

“We have to be honest, and acknowledge that a big part of the money in our banks come precisely from the exploitation of the African continent.” -Jacques Chirac, French President 1995 to 2007.

These immoral exploits, committed by a so-called democratic republics, were done for pragmatic purposes. Economic necessity is the driving force behind most political maneuvering from the municipal level on upto the international stage.

Currently, 14 Central and Western African countries are required to maintain a minimum $20 billion balance in French banks, as a stipulation tied to their exit from colonialism. The details of all this may be found via copious research on the internet, although little documentation is on the major news agencies, leading some to level changes of a cover up, while others dismiss it as another yarn of conspiracy. Alas, many of France’s leading lights confess in rare moments of candor, evidenced by the above quotes. As the millennium is underway, the African pot is much sweeter, with renewed discoveries of petroleum deposits, and unearthing rare minerals like coltan, essential for the manufacture of cell phones and other devices. From this, the allegory “Africa bleeds while France feeds,” is derived, with little exaggeration. The positive qualities that drew Europeans to this land of treasuries are the same traits which keep it in a state of dysfunction as the world lines up to leech off the Mother Land.