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A War Made in France

Central Africa at the Crossroads

by BURKELY HERMANN

A lot can change in one week. Over one week ago, one of my articles about the French-led war in Central Africa Republic was published in State of Globe, a Norwegian publication. While the peace movement seems silent on this war, I will continue to write in hopes of spurring action from others.

Before one goes further it is important to back up to understand the political situation in the country, especially the change of leaders. In March 2013, a coup overthrew long time President Francois Bozize, bringing Michel Djotodia to power, who stayed until occupying forces, especially the French, thought that he wasn’t doing enough to maintain security. On January 10th, he resigned and Alexandre-Ferdinand Nguendet took power, staying only for ten days, but ordered a security crackdown on supposed troublemakers in the capital of the country, Bangui. Both of these leaders, like Bozize, were friendly to the Chinese investors, which seemingly is another reason for their ouster. In their place, the National Transitional Council (CNT) elected a new leader, named Catherine Samba-Panza, keeping the pro-Chinese Nguendet at the head of the CNT. While she was declared as “politically neutral” by BBC, there is some doubt of this. Unlike Nguendet, she did not give her first interview to the Chinese, but rather the US propaganda source, Voice of America (VOA). In the interview, she told VOA that she was hoping a woman president in the country would help “calm down those who have hatred in their hearts.” and said that “the population is extremely poor. People also need to feel safe everywhere in C.A.R.” Elsewhere she said that she wants the fighting to stop, while also calling on “the international community to help us quickly restore order in our country which today is on the brink of chaos.” Importantly, UN Special Representative Babacar Gaye, a graduate of the French version of West Point,[1] and former leader of numerous ‘peacekeeping’ operations in Africa said that Samba-Panza “could help restore hope,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who declared that France is not the policeman of Africa said  Samba-Panza was a “very remarkable woman,” and UN secretary genderal. Ban Ki-Moon also applauded her election. On top of this, the deputy speaker of transitional council, Lea Koyassoum Doumta, said that the next president “must be somebody who can unite Central Africans, restore security, ease tensions, put everybody back to work and pave the way for free, democratic and transparent elections,” all which will be good for business. This approach of pushing for a new election is exactly what the French and other countries involved in Central Africa want as well, all for their own reasons, allowing a corporate insurance lawyer to ensure their current (or future) investments in the country are not ruined.

All the while, the reality which isn’t always as obvious was still there. French and African troops, numbering 5,600 in all, remain in the country, but as BBC noted in the last sentence of an article talking about future UN involvement, said that “sporadic violence has continued, despite the presence of 1,600 French troops and 4,000 African Union peacekeepers.” Still, former African leader Alexendre-Ferdinand Nguendet who said that “anarchy was over” in the country, likely to alleviate fears. The EU has begun deploying to the country, with 400-600 troops joining the ranks of the African forces in six months. What was missed by most was the international donors which have pledged to fund the  humanitarian assistance for the country, giving $496 million, with only “$200 million is earmarked for immediate humanitarian needs [within 100 days and]…the remainder set aside for financing medium-term projects to help the country get back on its feet.” Specifically, the European Commission gave about $60 million, the U.S. and France giving about $90 million, Sweden giving about $13 million, the World Bank giving about $100 million and the African Development Bank giving $75 million. In the eyes of EU Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva, this money puts “an end to the Central African Republic being an aid orphan, forever.” However, this eschews the reality of the country under the boot of the French, and how the country’s government has been implementing programs of the IMF, WTO, and World Bank, many of which have been stalled by violence in the country, creating an ‘unfriendly’ business climate.

In an unrelated interview on The Real News Network on January 20th about Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy, Paul Jay made an interesting point about African elites, which relates exactly what I’m talking about. He told Deyvon Love, an activist who is part of the Baltimore-based Leaders for  Beautiful Struggle (LBS) that in Africa you find people who are “just capitalists and they’re making money…and with some black elites [are]…loving every minute of it, ’cause they’re bathing in money…if you could recover the amount of money that black elites have stored in Switzerland and various offshore banks as they slice off pieces of the IMF and World Bank loans and various other kind of NGO stuff and shove in their pockets, and their pockets are sitting in bank accounts…this isn’t just about, you know, self-identifying I want to be rich white. I mean, this is also just about I can make a lot of money here and I want to be rich and powerful.” While the current leader of the country doesn’t fit this description, it is clear that former leaders going all the way back to the independence of the Central African Republic fit the specifics that Jay is talking about.

This connects to the role of France, which basically lords over the economies of fourteen African countries through currency backed by the French treasury and central banks, which France has a veto over, issuing the CFA Francs.[2] Antoine Roger Lokongo, writes in Black Agenda Report that France regards Central “CAR and other former French colonies in West and Central Africa” as its backyard, tied to the country through by defense agreements as well, along with CFA Francs pegged to the Euro, meaning that “France is intervening in Africa for the sake of its own survival as a country as well as a power…[since] total independence for CAR, both political and economic means the end of “Françafrique.” Lokongo continues, saying that “European powers are now united in their fear of China’s strong presence in Africa” in order to stop agreements with the Chinese, and other newcomers to the continent, and pushing out Djotodia because they didn’t want him. Importantly, he notes that France still has a lot of power over the events in the country, ending with the remark that “every ‘resource war’ in Africa has hidden hands pulling the strings behind it.”

It seems destined that a pro-French and pro-‘Western’ leader will take hold in the upcoming elections, ensuring the country’s submission to Western forces. After all, France has extreme power over the country’s economy. Lest us not forget that Africa is a continent where the US has intervened consistently since the time of Jimmy Carter (and before inconsistently) as noted in a recent analysis of uses of US armed forces through all of US history. The US even is pushing its investment on Africa even more forcibly than before, announcing a summit with African leaders in August of this year. All of this brings one to why the Central African Republic is at a crossroads. One could say that the country could continue down the path of staying on the side of the neo-colonialist powers, or could join that of the Chinese or newcomers. [3] However, there is another path: an alternative, independent route that rejects both of these forces. This may be unlikely but it is something more to hope and push for, rather than accepting these forces as a reality. In a country where the minimum income is only $1,080 a year, much more can be done

For the betterment of the people of the Central African Republic, the peace and justice movement should join along in the condemnation of the French-led war, by engaging in rallies, marches, and other acts of nonviolent resistance, while connecting with those all ready protesting the war in Central Africa and France. In the end, this mad imperialist scramble in Africa must end, along with a push for a new, and revised Freedom Carter to be implemented all across Africa, and rejection of all policies that keep the status quo of competition between competing forces in place.

Burkely Hermann is an activist who writes numerous blogs to educate the populace about international, local and national issues. He tries to mimic the idea of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense to appeal to the common people and pushes for nonviolent direct action.

Notes

[1] École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr (ESM),

[2] Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Republic of the Congo

Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Togo

[3] Non-‘Western’ countries other than China in the continent include Russia, Turkey, South Korea, and so on.