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Will EU Troops Stop The Central African Cycle Of Violence?
central africa | imperialism / war | opinion / analysis Thursday September 11, 2008 23:05 by Ronan McAoidh - Workers' Solidarity Movement (Ireland) zacf at zabalaza dot net
The deployment of an EU military force to Chad and Central African Republic (CAR) was widely spun as a humanitarian intervention, to protect refugees and humanitarian workers from attacks by Darfur-based militias, but can we really expect them to play a positive role in these countries’ politics?
The first point that we need to make is that the main influence behind the deployment of the EUFOR force was France, the former colonial power in Chad and CAR, which still maintains an active military alliance with both countries’ governments. Any look at a history of the French state’s involvement in Africa should soon dispel any belief in their commitment to human rights. Since the ending of colonial rule (itself a constant parade of injustice) the French state has supported brutal regimes in Chad, CAR and Rwanda and elsewhere in Africa, engineering coup d’etats and military intervention in its bid to ensure that ‘their men’ in Africa remain in power.
At present, French troops and aircraft continue to offer support to the governments of Chad and CAR, outside of the EU deployment. Recently, they have offered intelligence and logistical support to the Chadian army, even airlifting militia from the Justice and Equality Movement from their positions in Darfur back to Chad to defend a city under attack from Chadian rebels. For Bozize’s brutal regime in CAR they have been even more active, bombing and occupying rebel areas as well as providing unconditional political support. It is necessary therefore, to see France’s role in the current EU deployment as merely part of a long process of supporting ‘their men’ in Chad and CAR, whatever the human cost of these regimes.
What France gets back from this is profit: while France props up these states French corporations get first preference for many contracts; in 2006 French companies supplied nearly 20 percent of Chad’s imports and 15 percent of CAR’s. Furthermore, CAR has major reserves of uranium which serve as a back-up source for France’s nuclear powered economy. In Chad France have a strategically important base in Central Africa, with three airbases, a thousand troops, and a squadron of fighter jets ready to be deployed wherever they are needed.
The Chadian state has also received backing from the US government, receiving military training as part of the US ‘Trans-Saharan Counter-Terrorism Initiative’, and being supported from IMF sanctions after defaulting on an expenditure agreement. This may well be related to the joint US-Malaysian exploitation of oil fields in the south of Chad.
But if all this is the case, why have the French pushed the EU to get involved rather than acting alone? After all, the French have been quite happy to use their military to fight wars in these countries in the past, so what’s different now? The answer lies in France. The new French president, Sarkozy, has frequently pledged to end the longstanding neo-colonial relationship between France and repressive regimes in Africa. At the same time, he is interested in developing the EU as a political force, strongly pushing the Lisbon Treaty as well as a common treaty on immigration. Thus, the present intervention allows the French elite to simultaneously develop the military practice of the EU, while maintaining their privileged relationship with these regimes. Not only this, but sending troops under an EU flag rather than a French one provides the intervention with a coat of respectability.
It is hard to tell whether we will see a significant increase in EU military intervention in Africa; certain sections of the European elite are keen for the EU to develop its use of military force in order to secure energy resources. However, the slow and contradictory development of the European project means that the EU are far outpaced by China in the new ‘scramble for Africa’. It is also worth remembering that the positions of the dictators in Chad and CAR are by no means secure; in the past France has had no problem with replacing one tyrant with another when their man begins to pull at the leash. It could well happen that the combined French and EU forces will allow rebels to overthrow the government if they lose faith in the current regimes.
Overall we can conclude that this EU mission does not mean that peace will come to Chad or to Central African Republic. The cause of the conflicts is not an absence of force, if this were the case these conflicts would have ended many years ago. The cause of these conflicts is deeper; it is rooted in the ongoing poverty and neglect of the people, as well as the opportunism of would be strong men, who see a chance to put themselves into power, and use the resource riches for themselves. Western corporations and their political elites maintain this dreadful state of affairs, despite their ‘humanitarian’ rhetoric, they are only interested in serving themselves and will use whatever means necessary to preserve their pillage of these countries’ resources. Those who are genuinely interested in peace and social change face a real struggle, against the state, against the power seeking militias, and against Western neo-colonialism, whatever face it wears.
First published in Zabalaza: A Journal of Southern African Class Struggle Anarchism, theoretical journal of the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front, issue number nine, available online here: