16 October 2015
France in Africa: A Neocolonial Template for Latin America

​We need to start calling things by their name. In Ukraine, the European Union and the United States and Canada supported Nazi shock groups to overthrow a legitimate government, installing a genocidal fascist regime guilty of attacking and ethnically cleansing its own Russian speaking population. Similarly, in Syria, just as they did in Afghanistan, the U.S. and its allied governments have armed, trained and equipped very large mercenary terrorist forces to destroy the country's legitimate government. Western leaders like Barack Obama, David Cameron, Angela Merkel and François Hollande have proved they too, like all their predecessors, are sinister hypocrites. Even political leaders who offer some kind of progressive opposition in Europe and North America generally share a similar neocolonial mindset. Leaders of movements like Podemos in Spain criticize Venezuela's Bolivarian Revolution, while the Syriza movement in Greece, once in government, signed a military agreement with Israel.

A French soldier stands guard in Bangui, Central African Republic.

Western leaders in general, across an extremely narrow political spectrum, repeatedly affirm as some kind of moral alibi a notional commitment to defend human rights. But the governments they end up forming all sustain an international world order that purposefully externalizes the costs of Western prosperity onto the majority world. Even leaving aside the unanswerable environmental case against Western depredation, the U.S. government and its allies in this century alone have deliberately caused millions of civilian deaths and injuries as well as many millions more displaced in the countries they have attacked. Western governments have failed on almost every level to address humanely and responsibly the resulting mass migration of refugees and asylum seekers. The European Union in particular is deeply discredited.

The publication this week of the dishonest, tendentious report on the MH17 catastrophe by the Dutch Safety Board is the latest example of political opportunism by authorities in Europe desperate to defend what little remains of their moral credibility. Over centuries, Europe's elites have proven themselves magisterial tutors of their North American understudies down to every last cynical, sadistic trick they know. The United States' power elites, ruthless beneficiaries of their country's geography, have exploited those lessons down to the same genocidal depths as their European counterparts and beyond. Now, faced with endless economic crisis, one European country, France, is well placed to sustain and recoup its bygone imperial power on behalf of itself and its European partners. In many ways, France is better placed than either the United States or Britain not just to defend the historic economic advantage they won through centuries of genocide and enslavement of peoples, but even to consolidate and reinforce it.

For the moment, the United States seems to be economically exhausted, because its own corporate elites have hollowed out its economy, creating a truly transnational corporate power dedicated to hijacking U.S. government policy for its own purposes. The notoriously secretive Trans Pacific Trade Partnership, the Trade in Services Agreement and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership are all examples of this. They all represent a single, determined, highly focused initiative by global corporate elites to capitalize on North American and European economic advantages in order to compensate for their countries' relative economic decline against China. For the United States this is especially clear in its relations with Latin America. Globally, in terms of projecting power, U.S. military forces seem to be overextended, assigned hopelessly ambitious and counterproductive strategic objectives.

By contrast, France retains direct control of small, strategically important colonial possessions around the world, while also maintaining effective economic domination of enormous areas of Africa. Since the Treaty of Nice came into effect in 2003, with the subsequent expansion of the European Union to 28 member countries, France has watched Germany resume its historic domination of central and eastern Europe. In 2011, the French government attempted decisively both to compensate for and to complement German dominance in Europe by turning once more, as it did in the 19th century after losing the Franco-Prussian War, to extend and consolidate its power in Africa. Germany's government, supported by allied financial elites, has emphasized the renewal of its European hegemony by conquering Greece and intimidating central and eastern European countries from developing independent relations with the Russian Federation.

France has now intervened in Libya, Ivory Coast, Mali, the Central African Republic and maintained constant interference in the rest of its former African colonial territories. Things have changed a lot since the era of French colonialist debacles, at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, the 1956 Suez Canal adventure and the decisive defeat in Algeria in 1962. Now, French economic power in Africa is backed up by the monolithic monetary hegemony of the Euro and, ultimately, the economic power of Germany. French military power, abetted by Britain and the United States, is facilitated and projected via the anti-democratic rigmarole of U.N. Security Council resolutions. In 2011, the Western gangster nations could count on the indulgence of Chinese and Russian leaders prior to Presidents Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin. Libya's savage destruction by NATO was a decisive alert for China and Russia, leading them to combine forces and work together against the increasing aggression of the NATO countries and their Pacific allies. During the destruction of Libya, France and its NATO accomplices also benefited from racist Arab supremacism of the kind openly avowed by NATO's mercenary militias in places like Misrata and Benghazi, derived from those militias' patrons in Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

With world attention focused on the war in Libya, the French government was able to veil its abuse of the U.N. mandate in Ivory Coast and so effect a coup d'etat against the country's legitimate government which was challenging French neocolonial control in the region. A look at the relevant map (below) shows how that control is practically coextensive with France's former colonial occupation. Before 2011, the only truly independent governments in the region were those of Libya and Algeria. Ivory Coast's President Laurent Gbagbo struggled to formulate an independent policy under impossible circumstances of U.N. sanctions, French regional dominance and foreign instigated national conflict. In the cases of both Libya and Ivory Coast, France and its allies deliberately funded armed opposition movements to destabilize and if possible overthrow those countries' governments. This is all part of the NATO countries' standard regime change recipe currently being applied to Syria, to Venezuela and even to the Russian Federation. In 2011, using that recipe, France and its allies, with the collusion of the U.N., destroyed the governments of both Libya and Ivory Coast. Now only Algeria remains independent of French control in the region.

In both Ivory Coast and Libya, when it became clear that the target governments enjoyed too much popular support for the local opposition to succeed outright without military intervention, France and its allies under the pretext of the doctrine of Responsibility to Protect, mobilized heavily armed U.N. backed interventions to install the new regimes they wanted. In each case, the true fundamental motive to attack the governments of Muammar al Gaddhafi and Laurent Gbagbo was their challenge to French, and hence European Union, financial and economic control in the region. Among many other measures, the Libyan leader was proposing that the region reclaim its monetary sovereignty by adopting an African Dinar based on a gold standard. For years prior to 2011, President Laurent Gbagbo the Ivory Coast leader had proposed leaving the CFA Franc monetary system tied to the Euro. Back in 2004 he said, in vain,“Unless we have sovereignty, our states can never know stability in Africa. And we must stand firm to force those calling themselves funding partners to respect our people's chosen leaders.”

The CFA Franc monetary system is composed of two separate currencies, the West African Franc and the Central African Franc. In practice, they are the same, pegged to the Euro at the same rate. The countries using the West African Franc are: Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo. Those using the Central African Franc are: Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. Except Guinea-Bissau and Equatorial Guinea, all of these countries are former French colonial territories. Together they form a bloc of countries with a total population of over 140 million people and a combined GDP of over US$160 billion. French financial control of the region effectively binds this vast area with its huge population and economic resources to the European Union. This monetary control and the consequent economic and political control exercised by France represents a huge political and economic prize for the European Union.

For the moment, it seems unlikely that Latin America could possibly fall into the kind of extreme neocolonial dependence currently imposed in Africa by France and its European Union partners. But Africa's example is worth bearing in mind when trying to make sense of coverage of Latin America and the Caribbean by Western news and information media or remarks about the region by Western political leaders and diplomats. As Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega noted this week, Latin America is by no means “out of the danger of tensions and confrontations or that differences between Sister Nations become acute. Why? Because here too there is still interference by foreign powers who want to divide Latin America and Caribbean, they want it to fall into chaos so as the better to dominate and enslave it.” President Ortega's remarks share the realism of other regional leaders like Nicolas Maduro, Evo Morales and Rafael Correa. The French intervention in Africa offers a detailed template of what the NATO countries would do to Latin America and the Caribbean if they got the chance.

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