When France sent 4,000 troops to Mali earlier this year to combat the rebel fighters threatening to invade Bamako, the French president justified the intervention by stressing his country’s commitment to its former West African colony. “France will remain with you as long as it is necessary,” he said.
This “helpful friend” narrative suits France, but it’s one that is too good to be true, as most of you already know from reading about things like the colonial pact. So what was France’s real motive for sending troops?
France’s relationship with its former colonies in Africa used to be known as Francafrique, and it involved the support of unpopular African politicians in order to advance and protect its economic interests. Was the sending of troops a continuation of Francafrique?
Al Jazeera is running a thoroughly researched 3-part series to tell the story of Francafrique, which it describes as “a brutal and nefarious tale of corruption, massacres, dictators supported and progressive leaders murdered, weapon-smuggling, cloak-and-dagger secret services, and spectacular military operations.” Below is the first part: France’s thirst for energy. Prior knowledge of the colonial pact notwithstanding, it still makes for astonishing viewing.
The second episode reveals France’s ongoing mission to maintain Africa’s dependence on France in order to secure access to oil and maintain a firm grip over its former colonies. The dirty politics and the amount of corruption at the highest level of French government that this mission required is mind-boggling. Attempting a coup/regime change in Benin and the Central African Republic, even as the French president accepted a plate of diamonds from CAR president Bokassa. Financing the election campaign of Lissouba in Congo Brazzaville because he was the candidate the French government believed they could control, an act that subsequently sowed the seeds of civil war in the country between 1993 and ’97. And paying for all this with proceeds from Elf (then a nationally-owned company), the source also of the secret payments to top-level politicians at home in France. Bribery, fraud, the embezzlement of 3.5 billion French Francs. And Europeans go on and on about corruption in Africa, as if they have nothing to do with it.
The tables turn in final episode of Al Jazeera’s 3-part series The French African Connection. In the wake of the ELF scandal (covered in episode 2), the leaders of former French colonies in Africa realised the French weren’t the only ones hungry for their country’s mineral wealth, but more importantly, that they no longer had to listen to take orders from French leaders, a realisation led by Gabon’s president Omar Bongo, who was steeped in the unofficial ways of French politics. It was now Bongo’s turn to influence politics in France, doling out cash to French officials, recommending French politicians for ministerial positions and even getting Sarkozy to fire a minister he wasn’t happy with, a reverse colonisation, according to some, true independence according to others.
But while Françafrique may have withered, it has not died. France cannot allow that to happen, because it still needs Africa to satisfy its energy needs, even if it must now compete with other energy-hungry countries like US, China, India and Brazil. The competition for Africa’s natural resources is now fierce, as the global hunger for raw materials continues to grow. And no one comes out clean in the political games connected to this competition.
source: This Is Africa