VIEWPOINT: AFRICA’S COLONIAL VESTIGE, THE CFA FRANC
On 19 August 2017, Kemi Seba, a Franco-Beninese Pan-Africanist activist living in Senegal since 2011 and leader of the NGO Urgences Panafricanistes (SOS Pan-Africa) burned a 5,000 CFA franc banknote (7,62 Euro), at a demonstration in the country’s capital city Dakar, as a symbolic act to denounce what many consider a colonial vestige still active in francophone Africa. Following a complaint filed by the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO) on 25 August both Kemi Seba and Urgences Panafricanistes colleague Bentaleb Sow, were apprehended at seven in the morning by Senegal’s equivalent of the FBI, the Criminal Investigations Division for burning the banknote.
They were held in custody for five days in Dakar’s central prison Rebeuss – a prison Seba compared to a concentration camp – until they were eventually released on 29 August, also thanks to a hefty media campaign launched by sympathizers worldwide. As the topic went viral on social media sites that responded by uploading hundreds of photos of burning banknotes, cigars being lit with a CFA banknote or cooking pots full of CFA banknotes- the event re-opened a debate on a subject still considered taboo.
“I think it was a symbolic act much like that of Mandela burning his passport or Mohammed Ali refusing to go to war in Vietnam. It is a symbolic act to denounce how far the CFA franc destroys the lives of the peoples who share it”, says Senegalese activist Guy Marius Sagna commenting on the events on French radio FRI.
On 5 of September Seba was arrested again and the next day the Senegalese authorities expelled him to France stating Seba’s presence was considered a cause of public disorder, due to the numerous demonstrations his NGO Urgences Panafricanistes has held and is planning this year.