Monday, 7 April 2014

France's Creeping Mission in the Central African Republic.

'Raising awareness of a tiny African country today as she trudges around Whitehall is Oxfam's humanitarian policy adviser, Emma Fanning, who has recently returned from the Central African Republic. The UK has a vital role to play in the face of massive human suffering, she says' ( Twenty years after the genocide, we have learnt nothing from Rwanda. Linda Melver, The Guardian, Friday 4 April 2014 )
'Humanitarian intervention' again. EU troops have already been sent to CAR, mostly France the ex-colonial power until 1960, in order to try to stabilise the country and thus procure control over its copious resources of gold, oil uranium ( important for France's nuclear power plants ) and diamonds.

The idea that European powers such as Britain have a missionary role to play in Africa, one which has a moral duty to bring peace and prosperity to benighted lands and, of course, benefit itself economically, has been advocated consistently by liberal internationalists once more since the end of the 1990s.

In the first decade of the 21st century, both Britain and France saw the emergence of the 'military-humanitarian complex', wherby groups such as Oxfam and Save the Children have been coopted by government and politicians to advance European power interests and alleviate humanitarian distress.

The question that has remained unresolved in other mineral rich lands such as Afghanistan, where western troops mission to defeat the Taliban and ensure the construction of the geopolitically vital TAPI pipeline, is whether decisive political intervention to remove a bad regime has made things better or worse.

France's foreign policy has continued to use the humanitarian imperative as a way of giving a means to legitimise its pursuit of access to resources. Sarkozy and Hollande were particularly keen on a military strike on Syria to remove Assad so as to advance its oil and gas interests in Qatar and weapons sales.

With regards CAR, the African Union already has peacekeepers on the ground. The reason France was so keen to muscle in December 2013, as it had repeatedly attempted to meddle in CAR and get a regime that would be more useful in securing its resource interests.

This is in continuity with attempts as recent as 2006-2007 to use Dassault Mirage jets to bombard insurgent positions opposed to President Bozize who won the elections in 2005 ( after staging a coup in 2003 ) but has always ruled in order to benefit only his own cronies.

Britain is unlikely to want to get involved in CAR unless it were to have greater mining interests. The main interest France has is in continuing to preserve its uranium mining concessions and in diamonds, one reason it bankrolled the regime of Emperor Bokassa I in the 1970s.

In 1979 French paratroopers removed Bokassa in Operation Barracuda when his regime started slaughtering students and schoolchildren in the poorer areas of Bangui. The difference this time is that the Seleka rebels are not the only insurgents and, as in Syria, many are vying with one another over resources.

Civil war and ethnic cleansing, chaos and near genocide are hardly conditions under which Britain would contribute troops while France has made it clear that it's troops are not there to save Bozize's regime so much as protect its biggest uranium mining investment at Bakouma from anti-Bozize insurgents.

Compare and contrast what Hollande was saying as regards the CAR with France's outrage at Assad's inhumanity in Syria and the duty to intervene, one paralleled in Britain by William Hague following Assad's alleged CW attack in Ghouta, and it's clear humanitarianism is not much of a consideration,
“If we are present, it is not to protect a regime, it is to protect our nationals and our interests, and in no way to intervene in the internal affairs of a country...Those days are gone.”
The problem now is that with Bozize having been deposed, the conflict in CAR over who grabs what is set to intensify as the country descends into sectarian warfare between Christian militias and Islamists. As with Afghanistan, there is already talk of 'mission creep' and being sucked into a deepening war.

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