Political Reform in Francophone Africa

In This Review

Political Reform in Francophone Africa

Edited by John F. Clark and David E. Gardinier
Westview Press, 1997
318 pp. $69.00
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This excellent collection surveys the causes of political change in French-speaking Africa in the five years following President Francois Mitterrand's dramatic announcement at La Baule in June 1990 that France would make aid contingent on progress toward democracy. Democratic values had previously figured little in France's special relationship with francophone Africa, and even before Jacques Chirac replaced Mitterrand in 1995, backpedaling began. France helped rig Gabon's 1993 presidential election to ensure the return of Omar Bongo, for example, and propped up the venal Juvenal Habyarimana regime in Rwanda, making it unnecessary for Hutu hard-liners to give in to pressure for power-sharing with their Tutsi rivals. Nevertheless, the La Baule opening catalyzed reform pressures in many of sub-Saharan Africa's 20 French-speaking countries, 13 of which are ably profiled here in individual chapters that emphasize the distinctive features of the francophone political tradition as well as more familiar factors (ethnicity, class, economic underdevelopment, civil society's weaknesses) affecting the momentum away from autocracy.