BAMAKO, Mali — Many French guests came through the guesthouse where El Bachir Thiam worked as a security guard, a small oasis of greenery in busy Bamako, the capital of the West African country of Mali. They were friendly, usually, and he liked them.
But after he had welcomed them in, shown them to their rooms and reassured them that Bamako was safe, not the hotbed of terrorist activity it might seem from outside, he went back to his phone, where his activist WhatsApp groups were focused on one thing. Getting the French — their businesses, diplomats and thousands of troops — out of Mali.
Over the past few years there has been a sharp rise in criticism of France across its former colonies in Africa, rooted in a feeling that colonialist practices and paternalistic attitudes never really ended, and propelled by a tide of social media posts, radio shows, demonstrations and conversations on the street.
In Senegal, young people attending protests last year accused the president of being a puppet of the French president, Emmanuel Macron, who is currently vying for a second term. They smashed the windows of French gas stations and set fire to French supermarkets.
In Burkina Faso, as a coup d’état unfolded in January, tailors tore up French flags and pieced the tricolors back together horizontally to make Russian ones.
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