Since 2020, several African coups have originated from primary, former French colonial territories.
When looking back at the French and British colonial empires, we can see two different strategies, implementation methods, and goals of both empires.
The British opted for economic control and seizing territories and trade routes that benefited British trade and the acquisition of local wealth and resources.
For the British, their imperial project was run like a corporation to increase their balance books. In contrast, the French imperial project was more ego-driven and focused on capturing big swathes of territory in the African continent.
The French vs. British Imperial Project
As written above, we can see that the British were a business-driven empire where the French wanted to be in charge of the whole political system.
This meant, in turn, that when the French left Africa and gave up its colonial empire in the 1950s and 1960s, the French hollowed out these nations’ political systems.
We fast forward to the present day; the French have packed their bags and left their old colonial empire primed for coup d’états and vulnerable places like Chad, Niger and other former French colonies vulnerable to the influence of China and the Russian Federation.
English Common Law vs. Roman Law
One of the reasons former British colonial territories tended to be far more successful than their other European counterparts was the two dominant legal traditions, Roman common law, favoured primarily on the mainland of Europe.
It was more of an imperial-based legal system where the sovereign made the laws and used the ultimate power of imperial power to dictate their citizens’ laws, beliefs, and ways of life.
Roman law was a microcosm of the wider European political environment controlling people’s lives.
This became mainland continental Europe’s predominant legal and government environment during the European wars of religion from 1517 to 1648.
The European monarchies favoured Roman law due to it is the legitimisation of centralising their kingdoms and being dictatorial in the beliefs and thoughts of their citizens.
In contrast, English common law is made by the people, for the people can only implement it with their consent.
This is why former British colonial territories were far better off than their French counterparts; French laws are dictatorial, and English laws are based upon consent.
This can be demonstrated by the famous quote from one of England’s famous Queens, Queen Elizabeth I of England, who ruled from 1558 to 1603, stating, ‘I have no desire to make windows into men’s souls.’
Queen Elizabeth uses the expression of not making “windows into men’s souls” to describe her unwillingness to persecute people based on their interpretation of texts, as it is their soulful way of perceiving things.
She does not see nor want to control what goes on in the minds and souls of her subjects.
The Future of France and Africa
As these coups run their course, French involvement could take on a number of different forms.
That makes this so interesting: the French are a wildcard, and their involvement comes down to how they see themselves.
This is also partly driven due to former French colonial territory apart from places like Niger that have uranium or other valuable minerals, which otherwise are worthless geopolitically and economically for the French.
That’s why seeing what the French will do is so unpredictable. Unlike their English counterparts, they have no scruples and are not squeamish when it comes to assassination, bribery and making alliances with strongmen to further the perceived French national interest.