Even before the United Nations Organisation had given the green light, the first French troops occupied the capital Bangui, where bloody chaos reigned. Prepositioned in neighbouring Cameroon, they joined the French contingent of 250 soldiers charged with guarding the French embassy, about 1,200 foreign residents and the security of the airport. This was the beginning of “Operation Sangaris”. As in Mali, this is officially under the guise of the UNO in support of the African troops of the MISCA (International Support Mission to the Central African Republic). As in Mali, France is claiming humanitarian reasons, the risk of the conflict escalating into a religious and ethnic one, to justify its interference and, as in Mali, the French leaders promise a blitz operation, mobilising about 1,500 soldiers in limited and targeted actions “for a brief period of about 6 months,” according to Le Drian, Minister of Defence.
This country, as large as France, with only about 5 million inhabitants, remains one of the world’s poorest countries despite its immense resources. The primary responsibility lies with French imperialism, which, since independence in 1959, has dismissed the most capable leaders to place puppets at the head of the country, with the sole criterion their fidelity to French interests. Since the death of the father of independence, Boganda, in a very suspicious airplane accident, the country has had eight leaders, only one of whom was elected. All the others came to the presidency by coups, with the active complicity of the French army and of auxiliaries supplied by the neighbouring countries, particularly Chad. Francophone Africa experienced its most grotesque expression in Central Africa with Bokassa, a sergeant in the French colonial army, who fought in Indochina and Algeria, before being propelled to the head of the country by Foccart, Mister Africa of General de Gaulle. From 1965 to 1979, this soldier systematically bled his country, selling off the national companies, ruining the economy by lavish expenses, offering gifts of great value to Western leaders such as the famous “Bokassa diamonds” offered to Giscard d’Estaing.
He was removed from office by the former colonial power, not for having imposed a regime of terror and squandering the country’s wealth, but because he wanted to move closer to Gaddafi’s Libya, thus threatening French interests in Chad. After his ouster, his cousin David Dacko succeeded him, but he too was overthrown by another soldier for having wanted to open the country to Chinese interests. The last military coup was by Bozize, who remained in power for ten years, during which time he provided his family and his clan with all good deals and placed them in all key positions. Over all these years he benefited from France’s unconditional support, which in 2007 sent in paratroopers to quell a rebellion in the northeast of the country. However in 2013, [French President] Hollande decided to no longer support him against the armed bands of the Seleka, which eventually overthrew him.
The negotiations initiated by France and the neighbouring countries led to the temporary appointment of the main leader of the Seleka, Djotodia, as President of the Central African Republic. But he was never able to impose himself. For several months now, the country has been beset by acts of violence by the armed groups of the Seleka, which had nothing to do with a popular rebellion. The confrontations with those faithful to Bozize or with the committees of self-defence have become the daily lot of the population. Today, a third of the population suffers from hunger and hundreds of thousands of people are hiding in the forest or are refugees in neighbouring countries.
The real reasons for the “Operation Sangaris”
Hollande, [French Foreign Minister] Fabius, Le Drian and others claim to have launched “Operation Sangaris” for purely humanitarian reasons, even raising the risk of genocide. These are crocodile tears on their part. The worst dictators were brought to and kept in power by the leaders of French imperialism as long as they defended their interests.
The Central African Republic occupies a geostrategic location of primary importance, at the heart of the continent, surrounded by the countries Congo, Gabon, Cameroon and Chad, weakened by the interference of the imperialist powers that already exploit their raw material resources. Today, the Central African subsoil produces little: diamonds and gold mined by hand. But it is known that there are huge reserves of bauxite (the ore used to produce aluminium) and rare and precious metals. For several years, the Areva monopoly exploited a uranium deposit at Bankouma, but the global overproduction and above all the insecurity created by the bands of looters that the Bozize regime was unable to contain, led to the closure of the mine. Recently, in the north of the country, oilfields were discovered, which are the extension of the Chadian fields already in operation. Bozize dared to sign exploration contracts with the Chinese monopoly CNPC [Chinese National Petroleum Corporation], defying the interests of Total [French energy monopoly]. If one adds the fact that, for some time, the Bozize clan has received many visitors, members of the large diamond companies of South Africa, it is clear that Bozize was dropped by Hollande and French imperialism because he became an obstacle to French interests. The African continent is especially rich in raw materials and, with the emergence of new large consumers such as China, the competition over mineral resources and agricultural lands is leading to a redivision of spheres of exploitation due to the new relationships of power.
Therefore, it is to ensure the ownership of these riches, for now and for the future, that French imperialism unleashed “Operation Sangaris”.
Ten months after the start of “Operation Serval” in Mali, the French army again provided weapons to another former French colony in sub-Saharan Africa. While the withdrawal of occupation troops in Mali is behind schedule because the war is far from over, it had to send more troops to Central Africa. In a large country like France, the sending of 1,500 men to pacify the country appears insufficient. Certainly, the MISCA is expected to mobilize 4,000 men in the first half of 2014 and this figure is expected to reach about 7,000 in a year. But experience shows that the troops of the neighbouring countries, poorly equipped and poorly trained, are not very operational. On the other hand, imperialism is reluctant to arm and train seasoned fighters. And in the state of decomposition in the Central African Republic, the African troops already in the country cannot secure the population. They participate in the general chaos, robbing, raping and holding people for ransom. In short, the French army cannot rely on them to bring order to the country, to secure the cities and the main highways.
On the other hand, the presence of French troops can only increase the risk of escalation in the character of the war. After Mali and the Libyan conflict, thousands of mercenaries using Islam as a banner are ready to join in a war in which, once again, France is fighting to defend the interests of the Western world against the interests of the peoples of Muslim faith. Among the fighters of the Seleka, there are many Central Africans, Congolese and Chadians, but there are also an increasing number of fighters coming from Libya and Mali. The conflict could therefore quickly take on a dimension of a “religious war”.
Finally, there is a difference with the war in Mali where there was an enemy that was easily identifiable but difficult to fight. In Central Africa, who is the enemy and who is the ally? In the chaotic situation of the country, French imperialism will have to choose one camp against another and to find interlocutors, otherwise it will have to openly return to a situation of colonial domination.
Under these conditions, the intervention in the Central African Republic can in no case bring the Central African people peace and security. As in Mali, the presence of French troops is sharpening the contradictions between imperialism and the oppressed peoples. For the Central African people, this will lead to more victims, more misery, more people displaced or forced into exile, a tyrannical military occupation whose length nobody can predict. Already a blitz operation is expected to last at least six months, that is enough!
In Central Africa and Mali we demand:
FRENCH ARMY OUT OF AFRICA!
La Forge, December 2013, # 546.
Translated from the French by Antonio Artuso