AFRICA IS A COUNTRY

Senegalese award winner tells France to shove it
Jacques Enaudeau | June 24th, 2013

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Bousso Dramé is a young Senegalese woman who recently won a French language competition organized by the French Institute of Senegal. She was awarded a return flight ticket to Paris and a training in documentary film-making for winning said competition. She however renounced the whole thing after finding herself on the receiving end of vexing and humiliating comments from employees of the French Institute and of the French Consulate in Dakar.

This could have ended there and nobody would have ever known about it. But unlike those who have been in her shoes before her, Bousso Dramé penned a candid and eloquent open letter to the French Consul-General in Senegal, first published on DakarActu and later republished on Rue89, that has been making the rounds of the French-speaking African net. This letter, translated in English below with her consent, explains politely but firmly why France can keep the visa, the flight ticket and the training.

She makes clear that her decision, in her own words, is “not a sanction against individuals but against a generalized system” in which visa applicants are met with suspicion and contempt before anything else, and that she renounces “in the name of those thousands of Senegalese who deserve respect”. Those words have brought her much praise from fellow anonymous visa applicants and Africans in general. They have however been met with more interrogations than approval from French readers who have been asking what she is refering to exactly.

Indeed her letter speaks volume to those who already know what she is putting her finger on but appears elusive to those who do not. She did go into more details in the interview that she gave to Jeune Afrique. More than the clerk at the French Consulate who reportedly told her “she wasn’t paid to hand out smiles” — the kind of rudeness one can face in any (French) administration no matter who you are, it is the “recommendations” from French Institute staffers that are most telling: because she would be “representing the French Institute”, she would have to “behave” and resist “shopping temptations” despite a “very generous per diem”. The concerned White man telling the little Black girl to keep clear of his world’s niceties for fear she be bedazzled into oblivion… Sounds familiar yet?

But that’s not all. What Bousso Dramé faced was not just your run-of-the-mill neocolonial paternalism, she also got a taste of the discrimination faced by many migrants applying for visas when her request to stay three days longer than the training required, to visit friends and family, was denied. “Nobody looks like a prototype of illegal migrant,” she was told, implying that anything out of the tightly controlled schedule was suspicious activity, meant to evade the authorities and remain in France.

This kind of behavior is not just morally appalling. It also goes to show how out of touch with the reality of migrations French authorities are. Despite the pervasiveness of migrant bashing in French political discourse, all evidence points to the fact that migrants contribute more to their host country economically than they receive. In other words the idea that one more migrant in the country is one less job for a French national is deluded: it is not a zero-sum game as has been proven in the UK and in the US. In fact the reason the last OECD report found that France was currently an exception to this rule is not because there are too many migrants but because, after large numbers in the 60’s, immigration declined in the 80’s, making it more difficult to pay for the previous generation. “Raising employment levels for migrants would actually increase the fiscal well-being of countries.”

Bousso Dramé represents the future of Senegal: young, highly educated and determined. It is with people like her that France and other former colonial powers will talk and negotiate ten years from now. Singing the praises of this young new African middle class generation is easy on paper, and we have seen plenty of that recently. Yet when time comes to act on it, this generation is met with the same harrowing attitude as its forebears. Except times have changed and the Bousso Dramés of the continent are unafraid to say “no, thank you” and move on without France. As far as Senegal is concerned, this is all very good news and confirmation that the Nouveau Type de Sénégalais called forth by Y’En A Marre comes in all shapes and sizes. It is however a pity and an outrage that France has not yet come to terms with such a simple reality.

Open letter to the French consular and diplomatic authorities in Senegal: No, thank you.

To His Excellency the Consul-General, To the Director of the French Institute of Senegal,

My name is Bousso Dramé and I am a Senegalese citizen who, on this day, has decided to put pen to paper so that a message that I care deeply about can be heard loud and clear.

Out of interest for the language of Molière, I decided last April to take part in the 2013 National Spelling Competition organized by the French Institute as part the Francophonie Prizes. The competition brought together a few hundred candidates, aged 18 to 35, in the French Institutes of Dakar and Saint-Louis as well as the French Alliances of Kaolack and Ziguinchor. After some written dueling about an excerpt of L’Art Français de la Guerre [The French Art of War] by Alexis Jenni, which received the 2011 Goncourt Prize, I had the honor to be declared the winner of said competition. I was rewarded with a Dakar-Paris-Dakar flight ticket and a CultureLab training in documentary film-making at the Albert Schweitzer Centre.

During my short life, while being open as the citizen of the world that I am, I have never ceased to defend my pride of being a Black and African woman. It goes without saying that I absolutely believe in the bright future of my dear Africa. I am equally convinced of the necessity to put an end to prejudices that prevailed about Africans and Africa due to the colonial era and the difficult contemporary situation of this continent. It is high time for Africans to respect themselves and to demand they be respected by others. This vision of a certainly generous and open, but also proud and determined, Africa, demanding the respect that it is owed and that it has been denied for far too long, is a strong conviction of mine that enables me and literally carries me forward.

However, during my numerous interactions with, on the one hand, some staff members of the French Institute and, on the other hand, civil servants at the French Consulate, I have had to deal with conscending, insidious, sly and vexating behaviors and remarks. Not once, nor twice but multiple times! I have really tried to ignore these behaviors but the appalling welcome I have been greeted with at the French Consulate (a “welcome”endured by most fellow Senegalese applying for visas) has been the last straw that, unfortunately, broke the camel’s back.

As an authentic individual who does not know how to cheat, a difficult but necessary decision became an obvious one for me. An all-expenses-paid trip, even the world’s most beautiful and enchanting one, is not worth the suffering that my fellow citizens and myself endure from the French Consulate. No matter how exciting the training, and God knows this one really appealed to me, it is not worth the pain of enduring these kinds of behavior unfortunately widespread under African skies. As a matter of coherence with my own value system, I have, therefore, decided to renounce that offer, despite being granted a visa.

Renounce symbolically. Renounce in the name of those thousands of Senegalese who deserve respect, a respect they are being denied within the walls of these French representations, and on Senegalese soil moreover.

This decision is not a sanction against individuals but against a generalized system which, despite the ever-increasing list of complaints from my fellow citizens, does not seem inclined to question itself.

Furthermore, I find it particularly ironic that the partial headline of the training that I will not attend reads: “Is France still the homeland of human rights? To what point are French citizens also European cizens and cizitens of the world?” It would be, without a doubt, an interesting subject for a documentary shot from an African perspective and I hope that I will have the chance, by way of other means, to participate in a CultureLab training in the future.

I shall thank the French Institute nonetheless, for this competition initiative, which in my opinion deserves to continue to exist, and even to be held more frequently in order to stimulate the intellectual emulation between young Senegalese and for the pleasure of those who love the French language, among which I count myself.

To the lady clerk at the France Consulate’s visa counter – I do not know your name, but regarding that visa that I will not be using, let me tell you: no, thank you.

Proudly, sincerely and Africanly yours, Bousso Dramé.

The left winger
Weekend Music Break, N°43
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Jacques Enaudeau

Jacques Enaudeau is a geographer and freelance cartographer.


28 thoughts on “Senegalese award winner tells France to shove it

  1. Where are the French people let them come to their own rescue….. Of course they can not because all European and the US in fact countries with Consulates in Africa are very insulting on OUR OWN SOIL!!!

  2. This reminds me of a situation where I was chosen among thousand applicants to attend a leadership training for the global south dwellers and my visa to Canada was denied. Apparently the fact that it was fully paid for, wasn’t convincing enough for the consulate. *sigh*

  3. Hahahaah! Now, when this sweet critical thinking against their negative western machinations goes deeper and transmogrify into extremism (including terroristic inclinations) amongst us young Africans, should they be surprised? Just thinking by myself.

  4. You see now!! You did not shout about it. You can see you fall into that category of ‘good men’ doing nothing in the face of evil, hence evil continue to strive.
    Nevertheless do not feel guilty about that but henceforth write, shout, etc about any little negative attitude you experience from any authority. Together we will win; now or later but we will surely win.

  5. I could have done something but quite frankly I wasn’t in the headspace to do so.

  6. Touche’ Very well put by this young woman! We need more MEN to stand up and represent! Not just here but everywhere we are being treated as second class peoples.

  7. I am very happy for this lady.On one side l would expect some of our African billionaires e.g. Dangote to take this up and pay for her to go to Switzerland ,Belgium or even US to do this course.I am from an English speaking ECOWAS state and l have Senegalese friends with this ‘good’ mindset & attitude.Franc has had a far more retrogressive impact on our African people than other colonial masters,whilst the English have pulled out and left us to manage our destiny after the colonial era,the french STILL control and run french speaking African countries from Paris,they take all the job contracts,t
    Its ironic that making Africa inferior in terms of being able to manage its government accounts for why most educated Arficans from french speaking states still ply their trade in France and never come back home to enlighten their people as well as develop it

  8. No white man is indigenous to north america , south america , australia even south africa etc . Orginal inhabitants were killed like insects there . Now if you find a black in USA it would be lame to ask this question because europeans are already on others place . And to this question I guess european people deserve it , suffer for your crimes commited in the past.

  9. This story reminded me of Ferdinand Oyono’s OLD MAN AND THE MEDAL! A dignified, polite, classy, womanly version of the protagonist’s “Thanks, but no thanks”, but equally powerful. How shameful that we are still dealing with such deeply ingrained prejudice!

  10. The fight for the Right of 100% Human Rights to People African descent must continue indefinitely. As long as there remains racial differences —- fight on,fight on.

  11. owww this is “normal”behaviour now in all consulates and ambassy when a african is asking for a visa… i tried to get my husband for a holliday 7 times.. i pay for evrything.. it was 7 tiomes denied.. even so in appeals… we gave up on that. now i only see my husband 1x a year for 1 month.. and then they have the nerve to say.. we dont bond enough to be seen as a couple.

  12. I am a African English-speaking South American… I read this article and the letter of Ms. Dramé with a sense of pride and love for my fellow Africans.

    Thank you for that letter young sister.

  13. And now I’m offended by your post. Why the assumption that MEN are the only ones that can force change. You negate the excellent letter and action of this young woman by suggesting that change will only be accomplished if men now take over. Until we agree that we all, women and men, are equally responsible for those agendas that affect us, women will continue to be forced to a lesser role and equality will be denied.

  14. Africa Unite, from Cape Town to Cairo and Timbuktu to Madagascar. Never and never again should Africa and its children be slaves to any nation on earth, now and forever more to come….

  15. Viva. More Africans should do this to send a very strong message. We are polite and do not deal with our visitors like this – why do they?

  16. Never forget that they are taller because we accept to kneel down. Ms. Drame, I congratulate you for your courageous attitude. You are beautiful in body and mind! God bless your soul! Those French and all the western people should remember that they built their contries with the wealth they stole from Africa and all the other colonized countries. Franz Fanon and Paulo Freire are some of those whose writings are worth teaching to our African leaders: ” Debout les damnes de la terre…”, we must stand up and deny to be treated like a “3rd World”. The sweat of our ancestors made them the “power” that they think they are. Live with dignity or die, my brothers and sisters! Thanks for setting a brave example Ms. Bousso Drame!

  17. felicitations, Madame! il faut que encore plus des intellectuels Africains prennent cette decision! Au revoir, la francafrique! Maintenant, il faut appliquer encore plus de ce que Bob Marley a exhorté de emanciper nos esprits de l’ésclavage mentale! Great stuff….way to go!

  18. I am so proud of this young woman! May you soar above the clouds! I wish there are more people like you who won’t be bought for a few pieces of silver.

  19. ALL the names they go across the globe devil is the best term that describe who they are and what they continue to be

  20. This sister needs to contact director Haile Germia, professor of film at Howard University if she wants to study documentary film making. Thank you standing firm.

  21. DRAME,
    I STILL HAVE A TEMPERATURE AFTER JUST READING THE COMMENTARIES AND YOUR LETTER.
    I WILL LOVE TO HAVE THE ORIGINAL FRENCH VERSION FOR MY STUDENTS IN THE HAIR AND BEAUTY SCHOOL I RUN.THE ENGLISH VERSION IS A MASTER PIECE I MUST SAY.
    WHAT YOU JUST REALIZED IS THAT YOU WERE TOO GOOD FOR WHOEVER THOUGHT WAS ABOUT TO TRAIN YOU.I THANT GOD FOR MAKING ALL MEN EQUAL DESPITE ALL EFFORTS BY SOME HANDICAPS TO TELL THE CONTRARY.I THANK YOU FOR TEACHING US TO REMEMBER IT ALL THE TIME, NO MATTER THE BAIT BEING USED.

  22. “No white man is indigenous to north america, south america, australia”

    you do realize that north america, south america and australia had no indigenous populations until they were populated by people migrating from Asia which make these people, in effect, also settlers, right?

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