Why France’s stance against corruption in the Congo overlooks their own exploitation of Francophone countries
On Wednesday, September 30, 2015, French judges ordered the seizure of Congo Brazaville’s President Denis Sassou Ngueso’ family properties on grounds that they were acquired from corrupt practices. French authorities launched an investigation on Nguesso in 2008. A lawyer for Transparency International France, William Bourdon, revealed to Reuters that the court will seize two properties, after investigations established a direct link with several members of Nguesso’s family.
Nguesso has been financially controversial in the past. In 2006, Nguesso allegedly spent more than the £106,000 British aid given to his country, during his five-day stay at the Waldorf Astoria during the United Nations General Assembly meeting.
However, there’s something to be said for the hold France still has on the Congo. As a former colony of France, Congo has no total control of its monetary reserves, and it is one of the fourteen francophone countries still pay colonial taxes to France.
In August 2015, Anastacia Promskaya of the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia, explored France’s imposition of restrictions on Congo Brazaville and thirteen other francophone countries. Like the other thirteen former French colonies, Congo is not allowed to fully exploit the possibilities of the natural resources they have.
Congo is a country rich in oil and natural gas. The country holds 1.6 billion barrels of proved crude oil reserves, according to the latest estimates from Oil & Gas Journal (OGJ) released in January 2014, although total oil production has since fallen gradually as a result of natural declines, averaging slightly less than 280,000 bbl/d in 2013. The country’s gross natural gas production was 335 billion cubic feet (Bcf) in 2011.
Like the other countries under restrictions set out by France, Congo has no access to money without providing an annual balance and reserve report. There are reportedly more than 80 percent of the foreign reserves of these African countries deposited in the “operations accounts” controlled by the French Treasury.
The countries therefore cannot distinguish the amount of money belonging to groups from that of individuals. 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, are prohibited from disclosing any of this information to the CFA banks or the central banks of the African states.
Former President Jacques Chirac talks about France’s exploitation of francophone countries in the video below. He says: “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”.
France cannot simply point out Nguesso’s corruption, without acknowledging that a substantial part of their wealth is built on taking advantage of Congo and other francophone countries. France is not an innocent bystander in the corruption plaguing Africa, they contribute to the problem and need to do more to find viable solutions.