Sunday 20 March 2022

About Jacques Foccart: "Mr. Africa"

The "Puppet Master"? Jacques Foccart photographed in the background as Felix Houphouet-Boigny is interviewed under the gaze of Foccart on March 30th, 1969. Photo Credit: French National Archives.

Some points about the enforcer of France-Afrique.

1. Jacques Foccart (1913-1997) was a long-term advisor to French leaders on the affairs of the African continent. He was and continues to be a very controversial figure who to many Africans was the sinister face of French neo-colonialism.

2. While he was politely referred to as President Charles de Gaulle's Monsieur Afrique, others acknowledged the malevolent side of his activities. He was referred to as "Rasputin" and the "Grey Eminence Grise of the General". In Chad, he was known as Dopele.

3. Foccart was the co-founder in 1959 of the Service d'Action Civique (SAC), a Gaullist militia which specialised in undertaking covert operations in Francophone Africa. SAC participated in either maintaining favoured African rulers in power or in staging coup d’├ętats. Foccart also involved SAC in aiding Biafran separatists with weapons and mercenaries during their endeavour to breakaway from federal Nigeria. SAC was sent to Algeria to fight the Organisation Armee Secrete (OAS) and are believed to have been involved in the "disappearing" of Mehdi Ben Barka, a prominent member of the opposition to Moroccan king, Hassan II. Foccart also had enormous influence on the operations of the French foreign intelligence service (the equivalent of the American CIA and British MI6/SIS). Foccart admitted that the French secret service assassinated Felix-Roland Moumie. He was instrumental in enabling Omar Bongo to become president of Gabon after the death of Louis M'Ba. He also had close relationships with Felix Houphouet-Boigny of Cote d'Ivoire and Mobuto Sese Seko of Zaire (Congo).

4. Foccart's overriding objective was always to preserve French power and influence in the Communaute Francaise, the 'former' French colonies many of which were endowed with a range of natural resources such as oil, bauxite, tin and uranium. He was an architect of the policy of France-Afrique, through which France bound all of its former colonies apart from Sekou Toure's Guinea.

5. Foccart lost his role as African advisor after Valerie Giscard D'Estaing came to power in 1974, but he made a comeback in the mid-1980s when Jacques Chirac became Prime Minister during Cohabitation with the Socialist Presidency of Francois Mitterrand.

6. The National Interest magazine claimed that "Foccart was said to have been telephoning African personalities on the subject of Zaire right up to the week before his death."

7. He died on March 19th 1997.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2022).

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

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