One of the great impediments for the growth and economic security of many francophone African countries is that they are restricted in their commerce by long-standing ties to their former colonial master, France. Because of the agreements signed by these nations when they got their notional political independence these nations agreed to allow France to dominate and control their political, military and economic choices. They agreed to a Colonial Pact with France in the 1960s with terms and conditions that still largely apply today. These conditions have been a severe constraint on the freedom of these African states to trade with each other and with international partners outside of France and French companies. It has restricted the ability of international corporations, especially U.S. corporations to trade with the francophone African counties or invest in them. It is a highly restrictive system in an otherwise increasingly globalised world economy and, to make things even more ludicrous, these restrictions on open and transparent trade imposed by the French are financially underwritten by U.S. tax dollars and protected and preserved by U.S. military assistance, training and equipment in the region.
For the French, its ability to control and prosper from its captive African community is crucial to its economic and political standing in the world. De Gaulle admitted that French prosperity derived from the wealth and riches of Africa. In March 2008, former French President Jacques Chirac said: “Without Africa, France will slide down into the rank of a third [world] power” and Chirac’s predecessor, François Mitterand, warned in 1957 that: “Without Africa, France will have no history in the 21st century”. Having these virtual colonies allows France, not only access to and control of the wealth of Africa, but also a reason to maintain its seat on the U.N. Security Council and to count on a claque of votes in the United Nations General Assembly from its francophone dependencies.
After the Second World War and the reconstruction of continental Europe there was a wave of anti-colonial sentiment across the world. However, decolonization south of the Sahara did not happen as de Gaulle had intended. He had wanted to create a Franco-African Community that stopped short of total independence. But, when Sekou Toure’s Guinea voted “no” in the 1958 referendum on that Community, that idea was effectively dead. Guinea was severely punished because of its decision to leave and the French soon had to proceed towards allowing the independence of its African colonies. However, the price of independence for them included allowing a strict continuing French control over their economies and politics. The French and their former colonies agreed at independence to be bound by the terms of a new Colonial Pact.
The key to all this was the agreement signed between France and its newly-liberated African colonies which locked these colonies into the economic and military embrace of France. This Colonial Pact created a legal mechanism under which France obtained a special place in the political and economic life of its colonies.
The Colonial Pact
Not having planned for it, in 1960 de Gaulle had to improvise structures for a collection of small newly independent states, each with a flag, an anthem, and a seat at the UN, but often with precious little else except a football team. It was here that Jacques Foccart (DeGaulle’s advisor), came to play an essential role; that of architect of the series of “Cooperation accords” with each new state in the sectors of finance, economy, culture, education, and the military.
There were initially eleven countries involved: Mauritania, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Dahomey (now Benin), Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso), Niger, Chad, Gabon, Central African Republic, Congo-Brazzaville, and Madagascar. Togo and Cameroon, former UN Trust Territories, were also co-opted into the club. So, too, later on, were Mall and the former Belgian territories (Ruanda-Urundi, now Rwanda and Burundi, and Congo-Kinshasa), some of the ex-Portuguese territories, and Comoros and Djibouti, which had also been under French rule for many years but became independent in the 1970s. The whole ensemble was put under a new French Ministry of Cooperation, created in 1961, separate from the Ministry of Overseas Departments and Territories (known as the DOM-TOM) that had previously run them all.
The Colonial Pact Agreement enshrined a number of special preferences for France in the political, commercial and defence processes in the African countries. On defence, it agreed two types of continuing contact. The first was the agreement on military co-operation or Technical Military Aid (AMT) agreements. These covered education, training of soldiers and officers of African security forces. The second type, secret and binding, were defence agreements supervised and implemented by the French Ministry of Defence, which served as a legal basis for French interventions within the African states by French military forces. These agreements allowed France to have pre-deployed troops and police in bases across Africa; in other words, French army units present permanently and by rotation in bases and military facilities in Africa; run entirely by the French.
The Colonial Pact was much more than an agreement to station soldiers across Africa. It bound the economies of Africa to the control of France. For example, according to Annex II of the Defence Agreement signed between the governments of the French Republic, the Republic of Ivory Coast, the Republic of Dahomey and the Republic of Niger on 24 April 1961, France has priority in the acquisition of those “raw materials classified as strategic.” In fact, according to article 2 of the Annex, “the French Republic regularly informs the Republic of Ivory Coast (and the other two) of the policy that it intends to follow concerning strategic raw materials and products, taking into account the general needs of defence, the evolution of resources and the situation of the world market.” The French had a guaranteed continuing access to strategic materials. The first set of strategic materials listed included liquid or gas hydrocarbons. The second set included uranium, thorium, lithium, beryllium, their ores and by-products.
And to conclude, article 5: “Concerning these same products, the Republic of Ivory Coast (and the two others) for defence needs, reserve them in priority for sale to the French Republic, after having satisfied the needs of internal consumption, and they will import what they need in priority from it.” The reciprocity between the signatories was not a bargain between equals, but reflected the actual dominance of the colonial power that had, in the case of these countries, organised “independence” a few months previously (in August 1960).
In summary, the colonial pact maintained the French control over the economies of the African states;
- it took possession of their foreign currency reserves;
- it controlled the strategic raw materials of the country;
- it stationed troops in the country with the right of free passage;
- it demanded that all military equipment be acquired from France;
- it took over the training of the police and army;
- it required that French businesses be allowed to maintain monopoly enterprises in key areas (water, electricity, ports, transport, energy, etc.).
- it required that in the award of government contracts in the African countries, French companies should be considered first; only after that could Africans look elsewhere. It didn’t matter if Africans could obtain better value for money elsewhere, French companies came first, and most often got the contracts
France not only set limits on the imports of a range of items from outside the franc zone but also set minimum quantities of imports from France. These treaties are still in force and operational. One of the most crucial aspects of this continuing control by the French of their African ex-colonies is the use of a common currency in Africa operated by the French Treasury.
The CFA Franc
One of the most important influences in the economic and political life of African states which were formerly French colonies is the impact of a common currency; the Communuate Financiere de l’Afrique (“CFA’) franc. The origin of the CFA franc was the decree signed by General de Gaulle as President of the provisional French government after the war, by. Rene Plévin, Minister of Finance in that government and by Jacques Soustelle, then Minister for the Colonies, on December 25th, 1945. It was published in article 3 of the official decree 45-01 36, with the publication of the text in the French official gazette on December 26th, 1945.
There are actually two separate CFA francs in circulation. The first is that of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) which comprises eight West African countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo. The second is that of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) which comprises six Central African countries (Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon), This division corresponds to the pre-colonial AOF (Afrique Occidentale Française) and the AEF (Afrique Equatoriale Française), with the exception that Guinea-Bissau was formerly Portuguese and Equatorial Guinea Spanish).
Each of these two groups issues its own CFA franc. The WAEMU CFA franc is issued by the BCEAO (Banque Centrale des Etats de l’Afrique de l’Ouest) and the CEMAC CFA franc is issued by the BEAC (Banque des Etats de l’Afrique Centrale). These currencies were originally both pegged at 100 CFA for each French franc but, after France joined the European Community’s Euro zone at a fixed rate of 6.65957 French francs to one Euro, the CFA rate to the Euro was fixed at CFA 665,957 to each Euro, maintaining the 100 to 1 ratio. It is important to note that it is the responsibility of the French Treasury to guarantee the convertibility of the CFA to the Euro.
The monetary policy governing such a diverse aggregation of countries is uncomplicated for African Central Banks because it is, in fact, operated by the French Treasury, without reference to the central fiscal authorities of any of the WAEMU or the CEMAC states. Under the terms of the agreement which set up these banks and the CFAs, the Central Bank of each African country is obliged to keep at least 65% of its annual foreign exchange reserves in an “operations account” held at the French Treasury, as well as another 20% to cover financial liabilities. Before 1973 the African nations had to transfer 100% of their foreign earnings to France. From 1973 to September 2005 the figure was 65%. After September 2005, the percentage was 50% (still with a 20% additional fee).
The CFA central banks also impose a cap on credit extended to each member country equivalent to 20% of that country’s public revenue in the preceding year. Even though the BEAC and the BCEAO have an overdraft facility with the French Treasury, the drawdowns on those overdraft facilities are subject to the consent of the French Treasury. The final say is that of the French Treasury which has invested the foreign reserves of the African countries in its own name on the Paris Bourse.
In short, more than 80% of the foreign reserves of these African countries are deposited in the “operations accounts” controlled by the French Treasury and have been since 1961. The two CFA banks are African in name, but have no monetary policies of their own. The countries themselves do not know, nor are they told, how much of the pool of foreign reserves held by the French Treasury belongs to them as a group or individually. The earnings of the investment of these funds in the French Treasury pool are supposed to be added to the pool but no accounting has ever been given to either the banks or the countries of the details of any such changes. The limited group of high officials in the French Treasury who have knowledge of the amounts in the “operations accounts”, where these funds are invested; whether there is a profit on these investments; are prohibited from disclosing any of this information to the CFA banks or the central banks of the African states.
This makes it impossible for African members to regulate their own monetary policies. The most inefficient and wasteful countries can use the foreign reserves of the more prudent countries without any meaningful intervention by the wealthier and more successful countries. Most importantly, the French Government uses these funds on deposit in France as assets of France. As such, the French Treasury can hypothecate the value of African reserves as if they were French capital and they can be used as collateral in pledging assets to fill French commitments to the European Union and its EBCB.
As Professor Mamadou Koulibaly, the former President of the Ivory Coast National Assembly stated “francophone Africans have been reduced to ‘taxpayers for France. Yet our people neither have French nationality nor access to the public goods and services made available to other French taxpayers’.
The control system over these African countries by France is generally called Françafrique. There are three main elements of Françafrique used for maintaining this control. The first element of this control was introduced by Foccart with the creation of the Ministry of Cooperation 1961. This ministry sent out to the new African independent states French technicians and administrators to sit beside the Africans in government to supervise and assist their work; these civil servants effectively took over the administration of the new states with Africans as assistants. The biggest effect of the colonial intervention was that skilled and managerial jobs were largely unavailable to Africans, especially in the Ivory Coast.
Until recently, non-Africans–mostly French–still dominated the managerial and professional cadres. In 1973 the government set up the National Commission on Ivoirianisation to encourage the appointment of Ivoirians to managerial posts throughout the economy. Although Ivoirianisation of management was the announced purpose of the commission, Ivoirianisation was not to be implemented at the expense of efficiency. Consequently, most Ivoirianisation programs in commerce and industry were voluntary and produced only modest results. According to official figures, in 1979 Ivoirians held only 23 percent of senior management positions and 44 percent of junior management posts in all private, public, and parastatal enterprises. By 1982 the percentage of Ivoirians in senior management positions had dropped slightly to 21 percent; for junior-level management posts, the percentage had risen to 52 percent. Among the country’s 300 largest companies, Ivoirians filled only 29 percent of top management posts, compared with 67.4 percent that were filled by non-Africans. The remaining 3.6 percent were filled by non-Ivoirian Africans. In addition, many Europeans worked as researchers, technicians, and shop owners, underscoring Côte d’Ivoire’s continued reliance on foreign initiative and skills.
The government also employed a large number of European teachers and technical experts known as coopérants. Most were recruited by the French Ministry of Cooperation, but others were hired directly by the Ivoirian government through private, usually French, firms on a contract basis. The Ivoirian government was responsible for 80 percent of the total cost of those hired under official cooperation agreements and for 100 percent of the cost of those hired under private contract. Pressures for Ivoirianisation and the economic recession of the early 1980s prompted a gradual reduction in the number of coopérants from a peak of 4,000 in 1980 to 3,200 in 1984. Over the next two years, as economic conditions worsened and as more Ivoirian university graduates took over teaching jobs in secondary schools, this number fell by 1,000.
The privately recruited foreign experts were employed mainly as technical advisers in government ministries and in state enterprises. There used to be one Frenchman for every four Ivorian civil servants. These Frenchmen set policies; handled the budgets; regulated hiring; negotiated contracts and ran the country for the Ivoirians. Despite a damning report by the World Bank and the IMF requesting that this imbalance between locals and French in the government and civil service be reduced, not much was done. Two years after the IMF request there were still 425 privately recruited foreign experts, costing the government CFA 11 billion annually. According to official figures, 81.8 percent of the salaried positions in the primary sector (agriculture and raw materials) were filled by non-Ivoirian Africans, while only 16.9 percent were filled by Ivoirians. With the turmoil, which occurred in the Ivory Coast after the French destroyed the Ivory Coast Air force and murdered scores of unarmed Ivoirians outside the Hotel Ivoire trying to protect the Presidential Palace in 2004 many French left the country. However, under Ouattara, many more have returned.
The Ministry of Cooperation was merged in 2003 into the Foreign Affairs Ministry and French aid was moved to the Official Development Assistance branch. The French overseas assistance is now co-ordinated with the European Union programs and the direct implant of French nationals in the African ministries and civil service has been diminished. The private sector, however, is still manged by large numbers of French nationals. The French consultants and technicians assigned under French overseas development programs carry on the tradition of Françeafrique.
The second pillar of Françeafrique is the important role played by the French Freemasons in Africa. The French Masons represent the elite of French business and politics, Most of them were educated together at the same two schools and most pursue a career in the administration of the French government or the administration of French business. At French firms there is often pressure to hire or promote people based on their university connections.
Many of the key civil servants are graduates of the École Nationale d’Administration or the École Polytechnique . The graduates of these two schools often go straight into business or the civil service. These two elite schools, which produce 500 or so French graduates a year dominate the boards of France’ biggest companies. These represent the elite of French business and government. For those who excel, a place awaits them in the ranks of French Masonry; especially the French Masons engaged in African private enterprise.
Freemason lodges maintain a formidable, covert influence within the French judicial and police structures. All three Freemason lodges in France have gained reputations in recent years for being caught out peddling political influence and pursuing false invoicing on state contracts, particularly in companies controlled by the state. Freemasons in the judiciary hamper any investigations through bureaucratic measures designed to torpedo any serious attempt at reform. One of the topmost grievances raised by the muzzled French Press is that of the Grande Lodge National Française’s (GLNF) open-armed embrace of brutal or corrupt African dictators who are Masons. The other two Grand Lodges are no different.
The Masons have always provided the leaders and the staff of French colonialism. The Grand Orient established its first lodge at Saint-Louis in Senegal in 1781 and, as a consequence, the names of a number of distinguished freemasons are to be found in the history of French colonial rule. The great French empire builder, Jules Ferry, was a freemason and so was the colonial governor, Félix Eboué, a Black from French Guiana, who rallied Chad to the Free French cause in 1940, leading the whole of French Equatorial Africa and Cameroon to support General de Gaulle at a time when the Vichy Government was introducing laws against masons and Jews.
Just as in France, Freemasonry is ubiquitous at the very top level of many African states. Denis Sassou Nguesso, the Congolese president, is Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Congo – Brazzaville linked to the National Grand Lodge of France.; former President Matheiu Tanja, of Niger, former President François Bozizé of the Central African Republic, and President Idris Deby of Chad are among at least twelve African presidents linked to the Masons. In November 2009 Ali Bongo, the new Gabonese President was ordained as the grand master of the Grand Lodge of Gabon (GLB) and the Grand Equatorial Rite, the two predominant Freemason orders in Gabon.
In Congo-Brazzaville, both the current president, Denis Sassou Nguesso, and the former president, Pascal Lissouba, are freemasons, although they belong to different chapters of the order. Mr Lissouba is an initiate of the Grand Orient of France while Mr Sassou Nguesso belongs to a Senegalese lodge affiliated to the French Grand National Lodge. Most of these African presidents, but not exclusively, are francophone – Paul Biya, president of Cameroon , Blaise Campaore, ousted president of Burkina Faso; the late Robert Guei of Ivory Coast and John Kuffuor, former president of Ghana, to name but a few. There are scores more at Cabinet level and there are many who are currently staffing African regional organisations and banks.
These Masonic lodges operate throughout the francophone states and act as a less formal forum for interaction among African politicians, civil servants, businessmen and their French counterparts within the countries and in France. They are, for the most part, a secret parallel political structure which extends throughout francophone Africa where the members meet from many states under the aegis of the Masonic fraternity. The reliance on a Masonic secret society fits in well in African culture as many African indigenous cultures operate through secret societies and cults of their own. Throughout Africa, both Anglophone and francophone Africa, secret societies are still strong political forces in domestic business and politics. In West Africa the largest among these are the ‘Poro’ in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, Ivory Coast along with its female branch, the ‘Sande’; the ‘Ekpe’ in Nigeria operate a system similar to the Masons; the ‘Ogboni’ operate in Nigeria, Togo and Benin and represent the Yoruba nobility (especially in the courts); there is even a secret society, the ‘Neegee’ society (Crocodile society) which practices ritual cannibalism. When the French introduced Masonry to the Africans the concept fell on fertile soil. The reliance of an invisible parallel channel of politics and power through use of the Masonic lodges provides a powerful political system which supports Françafrique.
A large proportion of the political leadership of post-World War II Africa was trained in a single school in Senegal created by the French for their chosen young leaders. The French established a school in Dakar (then the administrative centre of French West Africa) in 1903 called the École normale supérieure William Ponty where many of the most promising African leaders were trained in the art of governance and the French system. Graduates of this school played a very important role in the reconstituting of French colonialism to French neo-colonialism and monitoring the process of independence from France. Many became the first presidents of their countries Key among these was Félix Houphouët-Boigny and Bernard Binlin Dadié of Côte d’Ivoire,. Modibo Keïta of Mali, Hamani Diori and Boubou Hama of Niger, Yacine Diallo of Guinea, Hubert Maga of Benin (Dahomey), Mamadou Dia of Senegal and Maurice Yaméogo and Daniel Ouezzin Coulibaly of Burkina Faso (Upper Volta) as well as Leopold Senghor of Senegal; inter alia.. The school was a teacher’s training school and many of the graduates went on to spread their knowledge and political inclinations in their home territories.
They became a relatively cohesive elite within French Africa. In 1946 many of the William Ponty alumni founded a political party which stretched across all the territories of French West Africa, the Rassemblement Démocratique Africain (‘RDA’) led by Houphuet-Boigny. Initially the RDA was aligned with the French Communist Party and was suppressed by the French administration. However, by 1950 the Cold War had started in earnest and the French Communists, who had been removed from their ministerial posts in 1947, were forced out of power and lost touch with the colonial structures. The RDA gradually moved towards a less conflicted political movement and lobbied in favour of the referendum on gradual independence in 1958 from which Sekou Toure and Guinea were the only dissenters. After the referendum in 1958 the RDA largely disappeared as a political force, leaving the Ponty alumni in charge of their territories and co-operative with the French in bringing about an orderly transition to French neo-colonialism, Françafrique.
However, it was the third element of Françafrique, more than any other which has had the most important role in the domination of the francophone countries – French business. As the French economy began to recover after 1950 French private and parastatal companies began to take over the Metropolitan French control of African trade. They also began to move in force to be sheltered in the protected markets of francophone Africa. Many, if not most of these companies remain in Africa, protecting their licensed monopoly markets delivered to them by French colonial policy. They became the operative power in Françafrique. Their names are familiar to anyone doing business in Africa. They include:
- Bolloré (leader in French maritime transport), principal operator of maritime transport along with Saga, SDV and Delmas, controls the port of Abidjan, the leading transit port in the West African region and the second container port in Africa, whose main container terminal at Vridi was recently acquired by Bolloré in a scandalous fashion, according the other port operators, both French and Ivorian. It also controls the Ivorian-Burkinabe railway, Sitarail. Although it has recently withdrawn from the cocoa business, it has on the contrary maintained its leading position in tobacco and rubber.
- Bouygues (leader in construction and public works in France, also present as Vinci, the second company in public works in France) has been traditionally, since independence, number one in construction and public works (we also find Colas, third-ranking firm in road building in France). It also has, through privatisation and obtaining concessions, control of water distribution (Société des Eaux de Côte d’Ivoire), of production and distribution of electricity through the Compagnie Ivoirienne d’Electricité and the Compagnie Ivoirienne de Production d’Electricité. It has also been involved in the recent exploitation of Ivorian oil.
- Total (the biggest French oil company – merged with ELF) holds a quarter of the shares of the Société Ivoirienne de Raffinage (SIR, no. 1 company in Ivory Coast) and owns 160 petrol stations. It has several oil and gas concessions in offshore Ivory Coast.
- France Telecom (seventh in rank among companies in France and leader in the telecommunications sector) is the main shareholder of Côte d’Ivoire Telecom and of the Société Ivoirienne des Mobiles (it holds about 85 per cent of the capital), since concessions were granted in this sector, in the context of the privatisation of public enterprises.
- In the banking and insurance sector, there is the Société Générale (sixth bank in France – the Société Générale des Banques de Côte d’Ivoire has 55 branches) the Credit Lyonnais, BNP-Paribas, AXA (the second largest company in France and leader of the insurance sector, which has been present in Ivory Coast since the colonial period).
- The most long-established of French companies is the Groupe Compagnie Francaise de l’Afrique de l’Ouest de Côte d’Ivoire (CFAO-CI, principal “Françafrican” company of the French colonial empire in sub-Saharan Africa, the private-sector colonial equivalent of ELF), which operates in many sectors (cars, pharmaceuticals, new technologies, after having for a long time monopolised exports and the retail trade) and whose profitability (not a single year of loss, from its creation in 1887) led to it being recently taken over the Pinault-Printemps-La Redoute group. It occupies the ninth rank among companies in Ivory Coast, after having ceding its interests the logging industry, in which it had been very much present for decades.
One should not conclude this list without mentioning the presence of the boss of French bosses, Baron Ernest-Antoine Seillères, through Technip (plant for the oil sector) and Bivac (which recently installed the new scanner in the port of Abidjan).
This presence of French capital is a demonstration of the profitability of Ivory Coast. And although French direct investment is only 3.5 billion euros – the most profitable ex-state enterprises having often been acquired at knock-down prices – the annual profits from this investment are enormous. Despite the flight of some French nationals after the Force Licorne massacre of unarmed Ivorians, this business presence is recovering its former levels. There are over 240,000 French nationals registered as living in Africa.
After 50-odd years of independence, France still controls most of the infrastructure in francophone Africa. The airline, telephone, electricity and water companies, and some major banks, are largely French-controlled. The privileged position of France in a country like Ivory Coast is confirmed by a report made to the UN in 2006 which said that the French own 45% of the land and, curiously, the buildings of the Presidency of the Republic and of the Ivorian National Assembly are subject to leases concluded with the French. French interests are said by the UN researchers to control the sectors of water, electricity, petroleum, the ports and rail transport.
The advantages of operating as a French company in francophone Africa come not only through the profitability of having a virtual monopoly in their economic sector but also by the leverage they gain from being the largest taxpayers in the country. The French companies in francophone Africa, by virtue of their protected monopolistic or oligarchic status, contribute a substantial share of the GDP of these countries. More importantly, however, they are often the single largest group of taxpayers. In many of these countries the French corporations pay over 50% of the national tax revenues collected. This gives them a unique status. Quite frequently the French say that without the French companies the economy of the African state will collapse. When coupled with the inability of the country to access its reserves it undoubtedly true. However, it doesn’t follow that private corporations from other countries, like the U.S. or China, would not contribute equally. The rules of Françafrique have been maintained as the chasse gardee, the private hunting ground, of French companies and the francophone nations of Africa have actively and openly discriminated against the activities of non-French companies on the continent.
Another aspect of this dominance by French corporations is the inability of these francophone African countries to collect taxes from its ordinary citizens. In a country like the Ivory Coast which has been divided for a number of years between the rebel North and the loyalist South by French soldiers, tax collections in the rebel regions were impossible. The rebels waxed fat on taxes and fees imposed on their captive populations and the sale of stolen goods from their regions, all of which they kept for themselves. They were assisted by many French companies in the North who effectively smuggled imported goods into the North and smuggled out the timber, coffee, cocoa, cotton, diamonds and other resources of the north to Burkina Faso and Togo. They paid no taxes or duties to the legitimate government in the South. Over half the population of the Ivory Coast and many of the companies in the North of the country paid no rents, taxes, fees, customs duties or utility bills to the Gbagbo Government. The French were adamant in supporting the rebels and in preventing their disarmament because it would have had a deleterious economic effect on the French economic interests in the country, not just a political one.
The lack of a citizenry paying taxes breeds a gulf between the government and the citizens; mutual responsibility is missing in the equation. It is the job of the National Assembly to legislate for economic programs based on the supply of revenue to the state, but if there are insufficient revenues delivered to the government the National Assembly is frustrated in its role. In many of the francophone countries, suffering under conditions of drought, lack of food; lack of health care; it is only French ‘aid’ to the national treasuries that sustains them. This ‘aid’ is often their own money which the French have shepherded for them and on which they must pay interest to the French on receiving them.
The Impact of Françafrique
These policies of Françafrique were not conceived by the French National Assembly or the result of any democratic process. They were the result of policies conducted by a small group of people in the French President’s office, the ‘African Cell’, initially led by Foccart. For the past half-century, the secretive and powerful “African Cell” has overseen France’s strategic interests in Africa, holding sway over a wide swath of former French colonies. Acting as a general command, the Cell uses France’s military as a hammer to install leaders it deems friendly to French interests. In return, these countries give French industries first crack at their oil, foodstuffs and other natural resources. Sidestepping traditional diplomatic channels, the Cell reports only to one person: the president. The Cell’s close ties to oil giant Elf Aquitaine, where top executives were jailed on corruption charges, was a source of embarrassment. And a former Cell chief has now been convicted of charges related to arms trafficking to Angola. These highly contentious policy issues never came before any of France’s democratically-elected bodies. African policy is the personal fiefdom of the President’s office.
Under Chirac, African policy was run by the President himself. He worked with the “Cellule Africaine” composed of African Advisor Michel De Bonnecorse, Aliot-Marie (the Defence Minister) and DGSE chief Pierre Brochand. They were aided by a web of French agents assigned to work undercover in Africa, embedded in French companies like Bouygues, Delmas, Total, and other multinationals; pretending to be expatriate employees.
Under Sarkozy the “Cellule Africaine” was run by the President and included Bruno Joubert and an informal adviser and Sarkozy envoy, Robert Bourgi. Claude Guéant, secretary general of the presidency and later interior minister, played an influential role.
This changed dramatically under Hollande. Hollande did not automatically inherit the background support of the French business community on taking office; especially the leaders of French Masonry despite being educated at ENA. Unlike the Socialist, Mitterand, who was a much more flexible ideologue capable of serving both Vichy as well as republican France in his career, Hollande won office through a domestic reaction against Big Business. Hollande’s “Cellule Africaine” is composed of his trusted friends: Jean-Yves Le Drian (Minister of Defence); the chief of his personal military staff, General Benoît Puga; the African Advisor Hélène Le Gal, and a number of lower-level specialists from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and the Treasury. Under Hollande, there are few direct interactions between the “Cell” and French Big Business who choose to deal directly with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defence, primarily through the “old Boy” network of “Enarchist” civil servants and the Masons.
The tight and opaque control of Françafrique by the African Cell enabled the French to pursue policies of control over francophone Africa which would never have been allowed if they had to be debated openly in the French National Assembly. The history of the French battle for continuing control over francophone Africa has been marked by many acts of violence and suppression by the French of African leaders who refused to follow the strict rules of the Colonial Pact.
The initial reaction to Guineans voting ‘non’ in the referendum on independence in 1958 is a good illustration of French reaction. There were about three thousand two hundred French nationals in Guinea at the time of Guinea’s exit from French colonialism. They were all ordered to leave Guinea by the French President. They took with them anything that they had brought or built in the country. They took all their property and destroyed anything that which could not be moved. They tore down or bulldozered schools, hospitals, nurseries and public buildings. They took hammers to the toilets and typewriters. They removed all the light bulbs, the medical supplies and measuring equipment at the research facilities. The killed the horses and cows at the farms and wrecked the tractors. They destroyed or poisoned the food supplies in the warehouses and shops. They said they would remove all the ‘advantages’ that French colonialism had brought to Guinea and that they would leave Guinea as they had found it centuries before. When Sekou Toure campaigned for a ‘non’ vote his slogan was “We prefer freedom in poverty to opulence in slavery.” The French wanted to make sure there was poverty.
After the granting of the “flag independence” of Francophone Africa things were not easy for many of the former French colonies. In the newly-independent state of Togo, the new President, Sylvanus Olympio, found that there were large numbers of Togolese soldiers returning to the country after their service in the French Army. The returning African soldiers who had fought for France were demobilised by De Gaulle and returned home to Africa in a series of moves which caused a great deal of hostility and difficulties for the African leaders.
In mid-1944 De Gaulle, when he saw that the Allies had pushed the Germans out of France decided that it was too dangerous to continue to use the frontline African troops. He ordered a “whitening” of the troops by replacing 20,000 Africans which were in battle at the front with white French soldiers. This event caused hatred and dislike between the white and the blacks at war. These Tirailleurs Senegalais troops were segregated in French demobilising centres waiting to go back home. While at the centres, these African soldiers faced discriminatory treatment. They barely got the food and resources they needed and did not have any kind of shelter. The French refused to pay them the money they owed them and informed them that, as they weren’t French, they would not be entitled to any pensions or benefits from their contribution to the Liberation of France. They were then transported out of France to holding camps in Africa, near Dakar in Senegal. In December 1944, humiliated and without having been given what they were promised, the soldiers at the camp at Thiaroye protested for the back pay to which they were entitled. The protest was seen by the French as defiance against the French military and the general in charge, with the help of the gendarmerie, ordered the “white” French military to deploy machine guns and opened fire on the African soldiers which resulted in thirty-five Africans killed, hundreds wounded and many sent to jail. It was known as the Thiaroye Massacre .
This problem had a very depressing effect on the Togolese economy and society so Olympio appealed to the French to pay the retirement and resettling costs of these soldiers that they had agreed so that the country could progress. He refused to sign the protocols of the Colonial Pact but proposed that Togo pay a fee to France annually for the debt Togo owed to France for the costs of colonisation. This the French estimated at about 39.6% of Togo’s annual budget. Olympio refused and asked to have Togo removed from the CFA and to have Togo’s reserves returned to Togo. Togo withdrew from the CFA and began printing its own currency. In January 1963, the French sent in three Togolese ex-French Legionnaires who murdered Olympio. The French Ambassador paid a bounty of $612 for the murder to Sergeant Etienne Gnassingbe Eyadema, the officer who killed Olympio and he became the new Togolese President.
Olympio was not the last to suffer the revenge of the French Presidency.
- In June 1962 the first president of Mali, Modiba Keita, decreed that Mali was leaving the CFA zone and abandoning the Colonial Pact. As in Togo the French paid another African ex-Legionnaire to kill the president. In November 1968 Lieutenant Moussa Traore made a coup, killed Modiba Keita, and became President of Mali.
The French use of African ex-Legionnaires to remove Presidents who rebelled against the Colonial Pact, the CFA or Françafrique became commonplace.
- On January 1st, 1966, Jean-Bédel Bokassa, an ex french foreign legionnaire, carried a coup against David Dacko, the first President of the Central African Republic.
- On January 3, 1966, Maurice Yaméogo, the first President of the Republic of Upper Volta, now called Burkina Faso, was victim of a coup carried out by Aboubacar Sangoulé Lamizana
- On 26 October 1972, Mathieu Kérékou who was a security guard to President Hubert Maga, the first President of the Republic of Benin, carried out a coup against the president.
During the last 50 years, a total of 67 coups happened in 26 countries in Africa; 61% of the coups happened in Francophone Africa.
There were several other assassinations managed by the French which took place without the use of Legionnaires. These included:
- Marien Ngouabi, President of the Republic of the Congo was assassinated in 1977.
- In Cameroon, Felix Moumie, who was the successor to previously-assassinated Reuben Um Nyobe, was murdered by thallium poisoning in Geneva on October,15 1960. His killer was a French agent, William Bechtel, who posed as a journalist to meet Moumie in a restaurant and poisoned his drink..
- François Tombalbaye, President of Chad was assassinated by soldiers commanded by French Army officers in 1975. Then, in December 1989 the French overthrew the government of Hissan Habre in Chad and installed Idriss Deby as President because Habre wanted to sell Chadian oil to U.S. oil companies.
- Perhaps the most tragic was the assassination of Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso in 1987.Thomas Sankara seized power in a popular coup in 1983 in an attempt to break the country’s ties to its French colonial power. He was overthrown and assassinated in a coup led by his best friend and childhood companion Blaise Compaoré on French orders.
- In March 2003 French and Chadian troops overthrew the elected government of President Ange-Felix Patasse and installed General François Bozize as President when Patasse announced that he wanted French troops out of the Central African Republic. A few years later the French deposed Bosize.
- In 2009 the French supported a coup in Madagascar by Andry Rajoelina against the elected government of Marc Ravalomanana who wanted to open the country to investments by international companies in mining and petroleum and refused to allow Total to unilaterally raise its contracted price for oil by 75%.
Francophone Africa was learning that the bonds which tied them to France were going to be enforced. The deal was that France would support the then current President of the African country if he didn’t complain about Françafrique. The “Cell” would keep the Presidents in power, would reward them with great riches and count on them for support in any deliberations on the international scene; in return they would expect that the Africans would give French companies a free run of their countries and the presidents would pay large sums of money to the French politicians seeking French Presidential office. It is a symbiotic relationship.
They key area of interchange and conflict was not on policy. It was in maintaining the French business monopolies inside the African countries and excluding all others. President Gbagbo found this out in 2002 when he attempted to free the Ivory Coast of some of the inhibitions of the Colonial Pact. He was met by a French-inspired rebellion and a French-inspired economic crisis almost as soon as he took office.
He discovered that the country was virtually out of fuel. The director of the S.I.R (Société Ivoirienne de Raffinage) had emptied the reserves of the country’s energy coffers. He fled to France where he was offered sanctuary and immunity for his theft by the French. There was no fuel and no money to buy fuel. The representative of Total-Elf visited Gbagbo’s office with the French ambassador and said that they had two ships standing by off the Ivory Coast ports which they could offer to Gbagbo. All they wanted in return was the privatisation of the country’s only oil refinery which they would purchase for one symbolic franc. The French would then operate the refinery as it wished, using the high-priced oil Total would supply, and that they would set the fuel prices for the domestic market. They brought a bag full of money for Gbagbo. He ordered them out of his office and told them not to forget the bag of money they had left. A similar exchange took place with the French cocoa entrepreneurs.
The same was true for the Companie Eléctricité Ivoirienne (CEI), the national power company. The contract with the CIE was due for renewal in early 2004 and the French operator (SAUR – Bouygues) demanded the right to continue to operate the national electricity grid in the way in which they had been operating previously. The Ivory Coast government consumed about 170 billion CFA francs (about 260 € million) a year. The French would supply Total’s overpriced gas to the to the ABB Azito gas power plant as their rent on the power station and grid but would charge hefty fees for power. Additionally, these fees were not to be taxed as revenue to the operators but remitted directly to them in France. There was no value added to the national economy, no amortisation of the debt incurred in building the stations and the grid and with no control over the prices. Gbagbo and his ministers said that this was unreasonable and promised that when the current contract ran out it would be open for international tender. The French were fuming.
The French (Bouygues) had agreed with President Bedie in 1999 to build a new bridge in Abidjan. The price agreed was 120 billion CFA francs (183€ million) or 200 billion if it were to be a bridge with an upper and lower level. When Gbagbo took office, he was appalled at this impending gross overspend and cancelled the contract. When Gbagbo was in China the Chinese said they could do it for 60 billion (for an upper and lower bridge) and they were given the contract in May 2002. The French were furious but could only continue to plot against Gbagbo. There were many similar conflicts in which Gbagbo tried to open the Ivory Coast to international tenders. The bridge was eventually built, under Ouattara, by Bouygues in 2014 at a cost of three hundred and eight million Euros. The contract was awarded without a tender and was partially funded by the West African Development Bank (BOAD); the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development (EBID), the Moroccan Bank for Foreign Trade (BMCE); the Dutch Development Bank (FMO), and Société Financière Africaine (SFA). The African Development Bank (AfDB) took responsibility for no less than 20% (58 million euros) of the total project cost of 308 million euros. It is now a toll-bridge.
The French have always guarded the primacy of French companies in their chasse gardée in Africa, especially in oil. The most famous case was that of Congo-Brazzaville and the battle between ELF and Occidental Petroleum of the U.S. In 1992 the newly-elected President Lissouba of the Congo took office and discovered that there was no money in the state coffers despite having a large and thriving oil industry controlled by Elf (now Total). The government was $200 million in arrears in payments to the civil servants. Lissouba turned to Elf and asked them to assist. Elf, which controlled 80% of the oil produced in Congo had agreed to pay a royalty of 13% to the Congo for the oil it extracted even though its contracts with other African states gave the Africans 50%. Even then, their payments to the Congo were in arrears.Elf refused to lend Lissouba the $300 million he wanted, even though it was collateralised by a lien on Congolese oil production. They also refused to pay their outstanding bills. Lissouba entered into secret negotiations with Occidental Petroleum (‘Oxy’) of the U.S. and Amoco, Conoco, Chevron and BP. Lissouba; agreed a contract with Oxy for the sale of 75 million barrels of royalty oil for $150 million which would be paid outside of the CFA franc account controlled by the French. The $150 million allowed Lissouba to pay much of the money owed to the Congolese and he kept his Presidency on the strength of that payment. The money was transferred outside the French banking system through Brussels so that it went directly to the country. When the French found out about the deal there was a major hue and cry. Local French businessmen led by Elf accused the United States of trying to replace France in the Congo and perhaps in all of West Africa. The Congolese Government demanded an audit of Elf’s activity in the Congo. The company refused to supply any information. Congo asked the World Bank to do an audit of Elf’s activities and Elf refused. There was an oil spill in Port Gentil and the Elf officials barred the Environment Minister from visiting the site. Chirac called Lissouba from Paris demanding that Lissouba appoint Denis Sassou-Nguesso (his opponent in the Presidential race) as his Vice-President. Lissouba told Chirac that the Constitution had no provision for a Vice-President. Chirac then promised that he would have to take action. In two days, bands of militia flooded the streets and attacked government forces. After much bloodshed (about 2,000 dead and 300,000 displaced) the government regained control. However, this did not last long and a bloody civil war took place in the Congo where tens of thousands were killed. In 1987 Denis Sassou-Nguesso launched a successful and bloody coup against Lissouba. He suspended the Oxy contract, bought the oil contract back from Oxy and returned it to Elf.At the same time U.S. oil companies were in conflict with Elf on the offshore contracts in Benin where the U.S.-backed President Nicéphore Soglo (1991-1996) was in competition with the French-backed Mathieu Kérékou over the right to explore for offshore oil reserves. In this case, although Kerekou won, the U.S. company (The Bettis Group from Dallas, Texas). was allowed to continue to explore as well as the French. All across West Africa the U.S. oil companies found themselves running into the brick wall of Françafrique opposing any U.S. commercial interests in this protected sphere with the full support of the French Government against the U.S. just as they opposed British oil interests by financing the breakaway state of Biafra in Nigeria.France lacked the money to compete on a level playing field with foreign multinationals but they had a strong military presence in Africa which tipped the balance. Ultimately the success of Françafrique depended upon France’s military activities on the continent.
French Military Involvement in Africa
The problem for France is that it maintains wide engagement of its military in operations outside of metropolitan France. These are very expensive. There are currently 36,000 French troops deployed in foreign territories-such operations are known as “OPEX” for Opérations Extérieures (“External Operations”).
Since colonial days France has stationed its troops across Africa in permanent bases. These participate in controlling the internal politics of the African nations of Franćafrique as well as their borders.
- Côte d’Ivoire, where the French troops in Operation Licorne and its helicopters recently overthrew the government of Gbagbo and supervised the killing of numerous Ivoirian citizens in collaboration with UN Peacekeepers.
- Chad, with the Epervier mission. Established in 1986 to help re-establish peace and maintain Chad’s territorial integrity, and establish and protect the government of Deby
- France has been present in Mali since January 2013 in support of the Malian authorities in the fight against terrorist groups. 2,900 men were deployed with the Serval operation.
- Since December 2013, France also has operated in the Central African Republic in support of the MISCA, the African Union peacekeeping operation. 1,600 men are deployed with the Sangaris operation.
France also supports the participation of African soldiers in peacekeeping operations through the Reinforcement of African Peacekeeping Capabilities (RECAMP) program
Recently the French have concentrated their troop deployments in West Africa to fight the rising threat of Islamic fundamentalism. Around 3,000 soldiers remain in the expansive Sahel area of Africa to check Islamist violence and arms trafficking, with no specified exit date. French forces are organised around four base camps, each with its own focus, and with headquarters based in the Chadian capital of Ndjamena. Their primary aim is not the suppression of fundamentalist forces; their primary aim is to safeguard the French Areva uranium mines in Niger which provide France with it supply of fuel for its nuclear power programs.
This operation is known as Operation Barkhane (the name refers to a sickle-shaped sand dune). It is an effort to streamline French military activity in the region and to retain the military power but reduce the costs of duplication of tasks. Following diplomatic agreements with Chad, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania (the “Sahel G-5”), over 3,000 French troops are involved in securing the Sahel-Sahara region in cooperative operations involving G-5 troops. Other assets deployed in the operation include 20 helicopters, 200 armoured vehicles, 200 trucks, six fighter-jets, ten transport aircraft and three drones
The initiation of Operation Barkhane brought to an end to four existing French operations in Africa; Licorne (Côte d’Ivoire, 2002-2014), Épervier (Chad, 1986-2014), Sabre (Burkina Faso, 2012-2014) and Serval (Mali, 2013-2014). Licorne is coming to an end (though 450 French troops will remain in Abidjan as part of a logistical base for French operations) while the other operations will be folded into Operation Barkhane. Operation Sangaris (Central African Republic, 2013-present) is classified as a humanitarian rather than counter-terrorism mission and the deployment of some 2,000 French troops will be reduced 1,200 French soldiers who will remain in northern Mali. Existing French military deployments in Djibouti, Dakar (Senegal) and Libreville (Gabon) are expected to be scaled back significantly
The French Army, especially the Foreign Legion, has been very active in African political affairs, keeping in power France’s political friends among the African presidents and ousting others who were less appreciative of French post-colonial rule. These external obligations have proved to be a growing burden on the French budget without all of the traditional substantial returns to the French economy coming from the monopolistic presence of France in the economies of Franćafrique. Globalisation has gradually led these nations to turn to alternative markets for their products and they have been willing recipients of investments from countries outside of France – notably China. Despite the economic burden, France has chosen to maintain its post-colonial dominance of the political and military structures of its former colonies but is now suffering from the diminishing returns to the French economy of these expenditures. The normal French military presence in Africa costs €400–450 million a year. Government planning estimates put the cost of a long-term sustained operation in Mali alone at €300–400.million Although popular, the Mali operation is very expensive and its costs have been increased by similar operations in the Central African Republic.
France’s problem in maintaining its military presence in Africa is that it has run out of money. France recorded a Government Debt to GDP of 96.10 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product in 2015. Government Debt to GDP in France averaged 55.02 percent from 1980 until 2015, reaching an all-time high of 96.10 percent in 2015 as reported by the INSEE, France.
France’s public debt rose by 40.7 billion euros ($45.2 billion) in the first three months of 2016. This takes debt to 97.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), from 96.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015. France’s tax revenues are falling far behind its expenditures and the debt keeps rising. This has not stopped the French from engaging its military in hostilities, especially in Africa.
A notable French example was its insistence that there be a no-fly zone over Libya during the Arab Spring uprisings against Muammar Gaddafi. The French interpretation of UN Resolution 1973, which imposed a no-fly zone over the country, was bolder than either the US’s or the UK’s position. It also insisted on calling this a NATO operation. It used up almost all of its ammunition in the first weeks of the Libyan campaign and U.S. military assistance was required to keep the operation going. The US spent almost $1.5 billion in the first wave of attacks by the French and British.
Since then the French have requested foreign assistance from the U.S. and it EU allies for pursuing its often aggressive neo-colonial policies in Africa as it could not afford these on its own. There is an ironic side to French requiring assistance from NATO to support its neo-colonial policies. France withdrew from being a full member of NATO in 1966, and remained separated for decades. The reason for French withdrawal was that France believed that NATO was not militarily supportive enough. France’s effort to develop its own non-NATO defence capability, including the development of its own nuclear arsenal in the 1960s, was to ensure that the French military could operate its own colonial and post-colonial conflicts more freely. Under de Gaulle, France had attempted to draw NATO into France’s colonial conflicts (on France’s side). De Gaulle claimed that Algeria was part of France and thus was part of NATO. Therefore, NATO must intervene to assist France in putting down Algerian independence movements. After the British and Americans refused to assist with French colonialism, de Gaulle expelled NATO troops from France and set up a more independent French military. Now that France is back in NATO it is making the same request of its partners as De Gaulle.
France is able and willing to carry on its efforts to control the politics and economics of Africa and to maintain Françafrique because it is subsidised by massive U.S. military assistance through AFRICOM and from the European Union. The European Union has taken on the cost and operation of much of the French activities in Africa in a program primarily led by and funded by Germany. The Germans lead the EUTM Mali which trains Mali’s armed forces and EUCAP Sahel Mali which is training and advising the country’s police, gendarmerie and National Guard. The Eucap Sahel Mission, under the command of the German diplomat Albrecht Conze, is co-ordinating European aid to the region.
By far the most important contribution to the continuing success of Françafrique comes from the US. taxpayer in its aid and assistance programs to the African states through the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and scores of other programs in food, emergency relief and training. In 2013, President Obama launched Power Africa, bringing together technical and legal experts, the private sector, and governments from around the world to work in partnership to increase the number of people with access to electrical power.
The biggest U.S. taxpayer support to Africa is in assisting the African military. The United States is the single largest financial supporter of UN and African peace operations in Africa. The scale is large and growing. SOCOM (Special Forces) operate frequent training exercises with African counties in-country individually and in groups. These are Joint Combined Exchange Training, or JCET mission, conducted under the auspices of Special Operations Command. Special Operations Command Africa (SOCAFRICA) is regularly engaged in about half of Africa’s 54 countries. It has about 1,700 personnel in the JCET programs.
Most of the US’ African outreach is disproportionally built on military links to client military chiefs. The Pentagon has military ties with fifty-three African countries. The Bush Administration announced in 2002 that Africa was a “strategic priority in fighting terrorism”. The U.S. then created a separate African Command (AFRICOM)
A typical building-block of military co-operation is the annual “Operation Flintlock” exercises. As part of a major drive to increase security in Africa’s Saharan and Sahel nations, American, African and European military forces combine to engage in a version of Operation Flintlock; a series of multinational military exercises designed to foster and development international security cooperation in North and West Africa. The manoeuvres are conducted as part of the Trans-Sahara Counter Terrorism Partnership (TSCTP).
The new AFRICOM program combines many of the US military programs from the past, including the JCET training and co-operation programs and the various “Operation Flintlock” joint exercises. There are many subprograms funded by the U.S. taxpayer.
- Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Initiative/Partnership (formerly Pan Sahel Initiative) (TSCTI) Targeting threats to US oil/natural gas operations in the Sahara region Algeria, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Senegal, Tunisia, Nigeria, and Libya.
- Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance Program (ACOTA) (formerly African Crisis Response Initiative) (ACRI)) Part of “Global Peace” Operations Initiative (GPOI) Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia.
- International Military Training and Education (IMET) program Brings African military officers to US military academies and schools for indoctrination Top countries: Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, and South Africa.
- Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) (formerly Africa Center for Security Studies) Part of National Defense University, Washington. Provides indoctrination for “next generation” African military officers. This is the “School of the Americas” for Africa. All of Africa is covered
- Foreign Military Sales Program Sells US military equipment to African nations via Defense Security Cooperation Agency Top recipients: Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Zimbabwe.
- African Coastal and Border Security Program Provides fast patrol boats, vehicles, electronic surveillance equipment, night vision equipment to littoral states
- Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) Military command based at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti. Aimed at putting down rebellions in Ethiopia, Somalia, and Somaliland and targets Eritrea. Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti
- Joint Task Force Aztec Silence (JTFAS) Targets terrorism in West and North Africa. Joint effort of EUCOM and Commander Sixth Fleet (Mediterranean) Based in Sigonella, Sicily and Tamanrasset air base in southern Algeria Gulf of Guinea Initiative, US Navy Maritime Partnership Program Trains African militaries in port and off-shore oil platform security Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Congo-Brazzaville, Congo-Kinshasa, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Nigeria, Sao Tome & Principe, Togo.
- Tripartite Plus Intelligence Fusion Cell Based in Kisangani, DRC to oversee “regional security,” i.e. ensuring U.S. and Israeli access to Congo’s gold, diamonds, uranium, platinum, and coltan. Congo-Kinshasa, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, United States
- Base access for Cooperative Security Locations (CSLs) and Forward Operating Locations (FOLs) U.S. access to airbases and other facilities Gabon, Kenya, Mali, Morocco, Tunisia, Namibia, Sao Tome & Principe, Senegal, Uganda, Zambia, Algeria.
- Africa Command (AFRICOM) Headquarters for all US military operations in Africa Negotiations with Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Djibouti, Kenya, and Libya. Only Liberia has said it would be willing to host AFRICOM HQ.
- Africa Regional Peacekeeping (ARP) Liaison with African “peacekeeping” military commands East Africa Regional Integration Team: Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda, Kenya, Madagascar, Tanzania. North Africa Regional Integration Team: Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya. Central Africa Regional Integration Team: Congo (Kinshasa), Congo (Brazzaville), Chad.
- South Africa Regional Integration Team: South Africa, Zimbabwe, Angola. West Africa Regional Integration Team: Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Niger, Western Sahara.
- Africa Partnership Station (APS) Port visits by USS Fort McHenry and High Speed Vessel (HSV) Swift. Part of US Navy’s Global Fleet Station Initiative. Training and liaison with local military personnel to ensure oil production security Senegal, Liberia, Ghana, Cameroon, Gabon, Sao Tome & Principe.
There are several others with similar tasks. Although the U.S. maintains only one official base on the continent, as many as 60 smaller facilities sprawl across 34 African nations including a new and expanded drone bases in Niger and Cameroon. These facilities serve as staging areas for a steadily growing array of joint special force operations, military exercises and other security cooperation activities. This represents a significant bill for the U.S. taxpayer every year. The exact amount has never been available to public scrutiny as AFRICOM has been very inconsistent with its transparency.
Not only has there been vast sums of money expended by the U.S. in Africa but there is a fundamental and recurring problem that these alliances with African client militaries often keep in power military dictators whom the citizens of their countries would like to remove from office. The root of most of this problem lies with the effects of Françafrique on Western planning and the taking on of the financial burden of keeping French troops in place in Africa.
The U.S. Taxpayer Is Paying For French Neo-Colonialism
The U.S. military is engaged in over 34 nations in Africa in the fight against terrorism and the growth of the various Al-Qaeda and ISIL affiliates in the region. One of the key problems in conducting this on-going battle is that the political situation in each francophone country is determined by the needs of Françafrique to keep their chosen President in power. A good example is Mali, where the French intervened militarily in January 2013 to stop an uprising of various militant groups in the north.
As the price for this assistance, France signed a new defence agreement with Mali, which would allow it to maintain a considerable military presence in the country. The agreement’s eleven pages of mostly general statements say that French military troops and civil servants will be allowed to stay in Mali, build military bases, operate, if needed, with Malian troops, etc., for the next five years. The five years’ term, as written in the document, is renewable.
This was a great triumph for France. Ever since the inauguration of the first President of Mali, Modibo Keïta, Mali had resisted the military aspects of the Colonial Pact. The last French soldier departed Mali in 1961. Keita refused to sign the defence protocols. Keita didn’t allow French military bases or troops on Malian soil. Even after the French had him assassinated by Lt. Moussa Traore , the Malians continued to refuse the defence pact. Traore’s successors Alpha Oumar Konare and Amadou Toumany Toure also refused, despite huge diplomatic and economic pressure. The most France could get in Mali was a 1985 military cooperation accord which allowed France to give military training and technical assistance to Malian troops.
Now, after engaging French troops to fight the Islamic forces in the North, France took over military control of Mali. After having defeated the invaders, and chasing them out of Timbuktu and other northern cities, and disarming factions of the rebellions, the French military banned the Malian army from Kidal, the central city of the northern Azawad region. The territory is claimed by different rebel groups, but it is under the de facto control of the mainly Tuareg MNLA (National Movement for Liberation of the Azawad). France allowed the rebels to occupy the area, reorganise and later gain a place at the post-war negotiations table.
France has openly supported the MNLA for a long time and insisted that they be a party to the negotiations with the Malian government who did not want to negotiate with the Tuareg rebels. Then the French put on the agenda the division of Mali into two parts, despite the Malian refusal. There was a short interval of peace and hostilities started again. The French realised that they could no longer afford the military costs of the Malian war and persuaded the UN to send peacekeepers to Mali. In December 2013 France announces 60% reduction in its troops deployed in Mali to 1,000 by March 2014. Interim peace deals were agreed but were quickly broken. By August 2016 there continued to be attacks on foreign forces. More than 100 peacekeepers have died since the UN mission’s deployment in Mali in 2013, making it one of the deadliest places to serve for the UN.
The French were satisfied that the bulk of the expenses for the capturing of Mali in the web of Françafrique were being paid for by the “international community” (the UN, the US, and ECOWAS). In 2015 the European Union also joined to promote France’s ambitions. France got its military pact with Mali and control of the country. This seemed such a good idea the French then expanded its ambitions to pursue the military options of Operation Barkhane based in Chad to cover Mali, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger and make sure that the costs of this expansion of the reach of Françafrique were being passed on to the ‘international community’; the large part of which is the U.S. taxpayer (directly and indirectly).
The same situation emerged in Niger and the Central African Republic, The French intervened militarily in domestic disputes which they created and took over de facto control of the countries. Claiming that this was a battle against “terrorism” the French were able to pass on the costs of their reoccupation of their former colonies using European, UN and, mainly, U.S. taxpayer money. Both African countries remain at war with domestic enemies in conflicts created by France and perpetuated by French policies towards reinstalling the rigours of Françafrique; all in the name of counter-terrorism. The UN, the EU and the U.S. don’t get a chance to decide who is the enemy in francophone Africa; this is decided by France. They only get to pay for it and use their military to train the soldiers who keep Françafrique in place.
The policy of France using U.S. taxpayer money for its own maintenance of Françafrique has not been reserved solely for the military sphere. The U.S. has engaged in a massive project of support for electric power generation in Africa, Power Africa. It has been designed to bring U.S. support for African power generation using U.S. financing, expertise and technology to African nations and to ensure that international best practices are met. One of its keystone projects is the Songon project in the Ivory Coast. The 372-MW Songon plant comprises two gas turbines of 126 MW, and one 120-MW steam turbine. The Houston-based Endeavor Energy signed a joint development agreement (JDA) with StarEnergie (of the Ivory Coast) in 2015 to build the Songon TPP outside Abidjan and to supply it with LNG. The U.S. Power Africa supervised the project and U.S. capital (Denham Capital) agreed to finance the project. Several millions of dollars were invested in the preparatory work. However, the local partner, with the connivance of the Ivory Coast government, suddenly bypassed the contract with Endeavor and contracted the civil works to a Chinese corporation. The rest of the project, including the supply of natural gas, was transferred to the stalwarts of Françafrique, Bouygues, Bollore, Vinci and Total without any tender or notice. The details of this hijacking have been described in African Energy of 13 October 2016. A similar twist of a contract was made in Mali.
The question remains – why is the U.S. taxpayer subsidising French control over its neo-colonial empire? Why is the taxpayer protecting French business monopolies in Africa, even when they are subverting the business of American companies seeking a market there? Why is the taxpayer using AID money to promote African industrial growth and electrical power generation when that very aid prevents the citizens of the African nation from freely choosing their leaders by funding the French neo-colonial manipulation of the African political structures and the business corporations of Françafrique.?
It cannot have been the understanding of the U.S. Congress that they would fund French colonialism and the French interference in U.S. company business in Africa by allocating money to the otherwise worthy cause of African development. If the Congress thought it was wrong under De Gaulle they should realise that it is also wrong under Chirac, Sarkozy and Hollande. The U.S. should cut off all funding to all African countries which collude with the French in their efforts to maintain Françafrique. If the French want colonies let them pay for it themselves.
Dr. Gary K. Busch