Monday 29 October 2012


Ex-Cote de Ivoire president,Laurent Gbagbo was actively lobbying fellow CFA zone leaders to depart from French economic neocolonialism. By the time of his ouster he was making efforts to introduce his own currency and urging neighbours to follow suit.

France couldn't countenance such a situation and in time honoured tradition found a local collaborator,Alassane Ouattara,trained and armed his aggrieved supporters (read:militia),flew in special forces for tactical stiffening as and when required and instigated a civil war. Paris has always been particularly ruthless in their African dealings never shrinking from robust ,military action or subterfuge  that would make Johnny Brit,himself a believer in strictly situational ethics blush.

There are 2 main reasons for this attitude. Firstly economic;without the CFA zone financial contribution toward subsidising their own economy,now estimated to be possibly half a trillion ,at least 400 bn euros since 'independence' in the 60s,France is just another European backwater-a Romania or Portugal,insignificant and doomed to the periphery of world affairs. Unlike the Germans they really don't have much productivity or diversification to speak of while plagued with socialist like labour relations.
Secondly,possibly most important is unfortunate history. The 20th century was especially cruel to France. On the verge of surrender to the Germans,for the second time in 40 years,(Hans Mueller had thoroughly defeated them a short generation before,capturing Paris,emperor Napoleon 3 at Sedan,seizing Paris in a 3 month siege and winning Alsace-Lorraine)this time they were saved by their bete noire,the uncultured Anglosaxon. It was not lost on observers that Germany's rise to a world power was at the expense of the French.
Just before the 1900s,some 30 years after this national tragedy another psychological body blow was dealt by the Brits in the Sudan when they were forced into a humiliating climb down. Both nations wanted cross continental colonies,the French east-west and the Brits north-south. The former led an expedition from the lower Congo under Maj.Marchand to Kodok (Fashoda) in an epic 14 month cross country trek hoping to claim the entire territory for the tri colour.

It wasn't to be. Fate intervened in the form of the last Englishman to ever entertain such French pretensions,Herbert Kitchener,arch imperialist,enthusiastic coloniser,mass murderer,fresh from his spanking of the Mahdi at Omdurman. Of such happenstance were major wars manufactured at the time. Again,the French had to bow to the possibility of superior firepower,in this case the British Navy. Another embarrassing public lesson in the realities of force.

de Gaulle himself ruefully explained how that incident in a obscure region in the middle of Africa affected him.
"Ever since an incident in the Sudanese village of Fashoda ... the French had been vigilant in guarding against anglophone encroachment in what they considered to be their own backyard — le prĂ© carrĂ©. In his memoirs, General de Gaulle listed the disasters that had afflicted France in his youth and that had led him to devote himself to upholding France's 'grandeur': the first on the list was the Fashoda incident. The 'Fashoda syndrome', as it was known, formed a basic component of France's Africa policy. To ensure that African issues received due attention, the French presidential office included a special Africa Unit — Cellule Africaine — with a wide remit to cover everything from intelligence work to bribery."[1]

Never again would Jean-Claude fail on the battlefield. Mais non! Many think this was the real reason for the bloody defeats in Indo china and messy Algerian divorce. Driven to compensate for previous history they were immune to the pragmatism the Brits showed in their own decolonisation. Not for them catastrophic  Dien Bien Phus or the agony of mutinying paras amidst national soul searching.
And so it is that Ouattara now leads Africa's number one cocoa producer while Gbagbo sits in a jail at the Hague waiting for his war crimes trial at the ICC.

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