French neo-colonialism in Africa is now official fact after the deployment this weekend of hundreds of its troops in the poverty-stricken Central Africa Republic.
The manipulation of events and public opinion to justify this French intervention has all the garish choreography of a can-can dance troupe.
Yet there is hardly a murmur of international protest at this audacious interference in a sovereign country. UN chief Ban Ki-moon has even praised France, and indeed there are some African leaders, such as Nigeria’s Goodluck Jonathan, who have welcomed the French initiative. How naive can these people be?
France’s President Francois Hollande claims that his troops have been dispatched to bring a halt to sectarian clashes in the CAR and to pave the way for elections.
But the real agenda, as analyzed in this column last week, is that France is cynically embarking on yet another military intervention under the guise of humanitarian concern – in order to secure its strategic interests in this former African colony.
The Central African Republic (CAR), despite immense poverty, is teeming with untapped natural resources of oil, agriculture, gold, diamond and other minerals, as well as potential hydropower.
In particular, France is after securing a $200-million new mining plant for vast uranium reserves needed to fuel the vital French nuclear power industry. The plant at Bakouma, run by French company Areva, is due to hit maximum output of uranium next year.
This weekend, France sent another 600 troops to the CAR to join a 1,200 French contingency already stationed there. There are also some 3,000 African Union forces present, but it is the French who have command of operations.
A review of events over the past few weeks clearly shows that the French “humanitarian mission” to “save” the heart of Africa is a cynical set-up or ulterior motives.
Some two weeks ago, the Paris government started whipping up sensationalist headlines that the CAR was “on the verge of genocide”.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told French media: “It is total disorder… we have to act quickly.”
Paris did not provide any evidence or victims to back up its blood-curdling claims of imminent genocide.
But the rhetoric set the tone for a French draft resolution before the United Nations Security Council calling for a peacekeeping force to be sent to the CAR – led by the French.
A week later, the French government went ahead with the dispatch of 600 of its troops. That dispatch last Monday preceded the UNSC vote later in the week – on Thursday.
As it turns out, the UNSC vote mandated a French-led peacekeeping mission. But the fact is that Paris sent its troops to the CAR four days before it had received authorization from the UNSC.
The latest French military intervention in Africa is therefore unlawful since it occurred before it received legally required approval.
On the same day that the UNSC was scheduled to vote on the French draft resolution, there were reports of deadly violence in the CAR capital, Bangui.
Since last Thursday, nearly 400 bodies of mostly civilians have been recovered. Hours later, the UNSC authorized the French-led “peacekeeping” operation.
But the question is: who is behind this surge in violence in the Central African Republic?
Western and French mainstream media are reporting on “spiraling, sectarian violence” between Christian and Muslim communities in the African country.
This very much suits the official French government narrative that it is intervening to halt inter-communal bloodshed.
The rebel movement known as “Seleka” that ousted the French-backed Christian President Francois Bozizé last March is mainly Muslim.
The new interim president that the Seleka brought to power, Michel Djotodia, is the first Muslim leader of the CAR.
Western media have tended to blame the Seleka rebels for most of the violence, without substantiation or verification. But, contrary to this narrative, the reports of sectarian violence in the CAR first began to emerge in September, and those attacks were carried out against Muslim communities by shadowy militia groups known as “anti-balaka”.
The anti-balaka are linked to remnant military forces loyal to the ousted French-backed Christian president, Francois Bozizé.
The latest spate of mass-killings in the CAR capital mainly targeted Muslim communities, according to the International Red Cross.
No one seems to know the identity of the death squads, but it is believed that the paramilitary anti-balaka were responsible.
At this point we can join a few dots. The ousted president, Francois Bozizé, was a French puppet ruler.
He was brought to power in a coup against an elected CAR leader in 2003, with the help of French commandos.
Bozizé is now exiled in France therefore one can assume he retains French favor. Unidentified militia groups loyal to Bozizé began mounting clandestine murders on Muslim civilians. This counterinsurgency tactic had the effect of creating a cycle of sectarian violence.
For all we know the same groups may have even carried out killings on Christian communities, thus aimed at discrediting the Seleka rebels.
The involvement of French Special Forces – who maintain a constant presence in the CAR as in all former French colonies – in such “psyops” cannot be ruled out.
In any case, the effect of “crisis” has chimed very conveniently with subsequent French government claims that the CAR is descending into chaos and genocide, and that the “international community” – led by the French – must intervene immediately to “protect human lives and security”.
The end-result of that choreography is that French troops are now patrolling the streets of the CAR capital and are being praised by Ban Ki-moon and the Western media as “saviors”.
No sooner had more French troops arrived in the CAR at the weekend, and Francois Hollande was telling media that the interim president Michel Djotodia “has to go”.
Hollande told France 24 TV: “You can’t leave a president in power who hasn’t managed to change anything or who has let things get worse.”
So with unseemly haste, Hollande is raising the agenda of regime change before his troops have even “restored order”.
Hollande also added that French forces would remain in the Central African Republic “for as long as it takes” and he called for prompt elections.
What’s more, the French president is calling for the UN and European Union to stump up money to pay for this French “peacekeeping operation”.
EU Commission chief José Manuel Barroso says that Brussels will provide €50 million to assist the French-led mission.
Like a can-can dancer, how is that for barefaced cheek? French imperialism is back in force in Africa to plunder uranium and other precious minerals.
Paris is not only getting praise for it, it is being subsidized by the international community for its endeavors.
Unemployment, poverty and fiscal austerity are at record levels across France and Europe. Yet EU bureaucrats are able to find millions of euro to under-write French neo-colonialism in Africa.
Poverty in the CAR is at the root of that country’s misery, as for much of Africa. The cruel irony is that French looting of resources and ongoing monetary and military interference in the internal affairs of supposedly independent countries is the cause of this poverty.
Now that nefarious legacy comes with a new diabolical twist: France is fuelling violence to justify its return to the scene of its African crimes in order to renew and intensify its historical exploitation of that continent.
And, sadly, instead of being condemned, the French are being praised and getting the rest of the world to pay for its crimes.
Finian Cunningham (born 1963) has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. He is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in journalism. He is also a musician and songwriter. For nearly 20 years, he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organisations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent.