French and UN Involvement in Africa

May 09, 11 French and UN Involvement in Africa

France has recently made headlines for its involvement in Ivory Coast. Involvement some have accepted as correct because of its apparent motivation. France, together with the United Nations (UN), argued that intervention in Ivory Coast was based on the UN and international community’s mandate to maintain international peace and security. The way the intervention was handled, however, questions the same principles of the mandate.

The manner in which the UN and France carried out the mandate in Ivory Coast brought even more devastation. The two ordered airstrikes on the Presidential palace in Ivory Coast. This order is disturbing because it was clear that the intention was to kill President Laurent Gbagbo and his ambassadors. However even more disturbing is the French involvement not only in Ivory Coast but in a majority of its former colonies. Scholars have taken interest in this interest, particularly because of France’s involvement in the post-independence era.

There are a number of reasons why France is still fully involved in Africa, particularly in its former colonies. The centrality of these explanations is based on protecting France’s interests and maintaining power in the region. The involvement is maintained through institutionalization such as control of the financial institutions in its colonies. France and its former colonies have bilateral agreements of which many are not defined but they exist, they are termed “special relations”. The secrecy of these agreements or relations is the root to the mystery of the French involved in Africa. The special relations were meant to allow continuity of the French rule Africa.

The French dominance however was not only contained in its former colonies, former Belgian and Portuguese colonies wanted to join the francophone family. Though Liberia was neither a French, a Belgian nor a Portuguese colony it too was interested in being part of the family. Golan discovered that in fact France did not give independence to its colonies in practice and in theory. Rather De Gaulle made a very vague statement to the French colonies. He promised “not to forget them” if they (French colonies) supported them against German occupation of France. Hence, France did not give its former colonies independence, concluding that France was avoiding any revolt which would have threatened its power in Africa. To this day France protects its interest, particularly through defence and military agreements.

These agreements continue to serve as means of protecting the French interest against external threats – either any threat outside the boarders of a country or any threat outside and inside the boarders of a country which has special ties with France. The latter has been more evident, particularly in the post Cold War era. France and the United States of America have continually acted against any threat external to their ideas of an African policy. To ensure that their interests are secured, military measures have been taken to annihilate any threat.

This is evident in two recent African case studies. The first is Libya. The USA ordered airstrikes through the NATO in Libya in its attempt to remove Muammar Gaddafi as President. The second incident was when France and the UN issued airstrikes in Ivory Coast in an attempt to remove and kill President Laurent Gbagbo. These two incidents are different yet similar, different because Libya is not a former colony of the USA but similar because they have important natural resources for the economies of these two states. Libya is rich with oil and the tensions and protests that have been taking place have affected the USA as it is the highest consumer of oil in the world. Cocoa from the Ivory Coast is important for the French as it is known for the making of beverages and chocolates.

On a broader scale, particularly in the case of France, if it is seen as being weak it could spark tensions across all its “former colonies”. Hence, military intervention in Ivory Coast was necessary to keep other colonies in check. This however is strange because these super-powers try by all means to avoid any rebellion from former colonies or proxy states. But they support internal rebellion in African states that would strengthen their hold over these states. This implies that rebellion is correct provided it is not against them and if there is rebellion then military intervention is guaranteed. This portrays Africa states as merely puppets in the pursuit of power – there is no independence because “he who pays the piper calls the tune”.

What is independence? Will Africa ever be independent of Western dominance? Do we lack leaders of virtue? These are questions that when answered will indicate in which direction Africa will go; at the present moment it seems we do not have leaders who know and seek the best for Africa. This does not refer to African leaders only, it refers to leaders internationally who do not care and do not have any clue of what best would suit Africa.