Africa is at a turning point and the establishment of sustainable democratic processes will only be achieved through the self-sacrifice and relentless mobilization of our activists. Democratic states committed to the respect of human rights, including France, can make their contribution by supporting pro-democracy movements and by accepting the plurality of opinions and criticism.
The France-Africa Summit in Montpellier has consecrated, since October 2021, the beginning of a new relationship between France and Africa. The objective is to build another partnership on the basis of shared interests and both African and French citizens are called upon to look at this new cooperation that is supposed to put an end to the privileged relationship and unconditional support of France to African heads of state. This is what we understood from the declarations of intent of the Montpellier summit and we sincerely hope that they are still valid.
However, in recent weeks, the opinions supported by members of Tournons La Page Niger have increasingly raised tensions with French diplomacy. The denunciation of French policy in Africa has always been an integral part of TLP's advocacy when it is contrary to the values and actions of our movement. We would like to remind you that the exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression is a cardinal value in a sincere and inclusive cooperative relationship; especially in a context where France aims to renew its relationship with Africa and to give a voice to the youth and those who make this relationship live on a daily basis.
Tournons La Page (TLP) is an international network of more than 230 citizen organizations located in Africa and Europe, divided into a dozen African national coalitions and one European coalition. TLP is not an "anti-French" or "anti-Western" movement, but is committed to a healthy relationship that must henceforth be part of a win-win partnership between the peoples of Africa and those of other continents. The national collectives within TLP enjoy broad autonomy to implement actions for social change, in line with the realities and needs of their countries. Diversity of opinion, exchange of ideas and respect for the word of others are fundamental values cultivated within our organization so that internal democracy can live on. Non-violence is a fundamental value to which all members adhere. The fundamental principles of freedom and dignity defended by our members mean that they are regularly subjected to acts of violence or arbitrary arrests, which explains why they sometimes express themselves with passion and deep conviction.
The Niger coalition, which is currently in open conflict with French diplomacy, has for many years had a clear discourse referring the Nigerien state to one of its regalian responsibilities: to ensure the security and protection of citizens. In addition to the discourse on the ineffectiveness of military action in the face of terrorism, the members of TLP Niger denounce the corruption and bad governance that plague the country and which explain the rout of the national army in the fight against violent extremism.
Tournons La Page-Niger is a coalition that does tremendous work documenting rights violations, monitoring elections, providing legal support to the population, and strengthening small civil society organizations throughout the country. This meticulous and risky work is admirable and has allowed them to benefit from the support of many external partners. It is also this work that has been recognized by the 2018 award of the French Republic's Human Rights Prize.
Calling on a state to face up to its responsibilities as defined by the constitution or criticizing a foreign policy is in no way equivalent to rejecting the French people or developing "anti-French sentiment". Our action differs from that of people acting in the service of foreign interests and pandering to the anger of the youth with populism. On the other hand, we demand respect for our opinions and call for an end to invective so that we can devote ourselves to the development of a free and prosperous Africa.
Marc ONA ESSANGUI
President, Tournons La Page