Nicolas Sarkozy, on a visit to Senegal, announced his vision of "Eurafrica", an effort to put Afro-European relations on a new post-colonial footing. In his favor, he at least acknowledged Africans' responsibility for their misery, something for which he was severely criticized by part of the African press who accused him of moralizing.
Refusing the notion of repentance, he is attempting to force Africans to take charge of their own destinies, but he still promises a Utopian vision of Europe and Africa sharing responsibilities as equals in the future development of both continents.
This is a condensation of a longer article from TF1:
"I have not come here to erase the past, for the past cannot be erased. There have been mistakes and there have been crimes." Nicolas Sarkozy passionately addressed African youth on Thursday (July 26), during a visit to Senegal, a former French colony independent since 1960. He recognized that colonization had been a "big mistake" even if Africa "had its share of responsibility for its own misfortunes," citing wars, genocide, corruption and waste.
Note: Wars, corruption, genocide and waste are major failings in a civilization, even if, on some level, they are inevitable. Europeans have been forced to expiate these sins, to repent, to flagellate themselves, to hate themselves and to denigrate their own civilization. Should not Africans be held to the same standards of atonement, in the name of equality?
Back to Sarkozy:
"There was the slave trade, there was slavery, men, women, children bought and sold like merchandise. And this was not only a crime against Africans, it was a crime against Man, a crime against humanity," acknowledged the President, who nevertheless declared that "no one can ask today's generations to expiate this crime perpetrated by past generations," and "no one can ask the sons to repent for the errors of their fathers."
Having come to Senegal to reaffirm the "profound and sincere friendship" that France feels for Africa, and to modernize relations with his African partners, the President proposed to African youth who comprise nearly half of the 900 million Africans, to "look together, beyond this rupture and this suffering. I have come to propose to you, the young people of Africa, not to ruminate over the past but to draw lessons from it and to look to the future."
Then he exposed his vision of a "common strategy in the globalization process" between France and Africa, "a great common destiny" baptized Eurafrica. To the skeptics he stressed that "in no way does it mean pushing aside sub-Saharan Africa; on the contrary this union must be the pivot of Eurafrica, the first stage of the greater dream of peace and prosperity that European and Africans are capable of conceiving together.
He concluded by saying that France wants to fight with Europe, Africa and "all those who, in the world, want to change globalization. What France wants is co-development, shared development with Africa. What Africa wants, what France wants, is cooperation, association, a partnership between Nations equal in rights and duties."
Sarkozy is not the inventor of the term "Eurafrica". A quick Google led me to this article (in French) that discusses the concept as defined by its creator, one Paolo d'Agostino Orsini, who, early in the 20th century, spoke of a geographical fusion of the continents, but also of a fusion of interests and values, and of a spiritual entente of the races, where Mussolini's Italy would be a dominant humanizing and civilizing force. This obviously goes back to pre-WWII days, when (according to the article) the conquest of Ethiopia was seen as an advancement of Italian civilization, America was seen as wrapped up in Asian problems, and Britain was considered a traitor to Europe with schemes to turn it into America's Trojan Horse.
Interestingly, the "dream" of an alliance goes back a long time. The only difference is that then, the European cultures were seen to be dominant, impelled by a sense of their own worth to spread civilization to Africa - what we call colonization.
Photo of Presidents Sarkozy and Abdoulaye Wade in Dakar, Senegal, from Yahoo.