My India First

My India First

Gabon disaster is one other problem to France’s African technique

The depth and breadth of France’s affect in its former African colonies makes it something however a impartial participant

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has introduced that France is monitoring the coup d’etat underway in Gabon “with the utmost consideration”, and her authorities has condemned the rebellion towards Paris’s ally, President Ali Bongo. 


These statements are hardly shocking, however they arrive laden with colonial baggage.

Gabon is the second former French colony in Africa to have confronted a navy coup in as many months, and the sixth in three years – following on from Mali, Chad, Guinea, Burkina Faso, and most not too long ago Niger, whose new put in junta could but meet with an intervention from the nation’s West African neighbours.

In all these instances, the previous coloniser has been referred to as to play a task of 1 sort or one other, and the query of its affect in every nation has been a serious problem.

This isn’t essentially how the French authorities desires to be seen, whilst it’s completely clear who its allies are. On a tour of a number of Francophone nations this spring, Emmanuel Macron promised that the period of French interference in Africa – typically derisively termed “Françafrique” – was over.

“Generally I get the sensation that mindsets haven’t moved alongside as a lot as we now have, after I learn, hear and see individuals ascribing intentions to France that it doesn’t have, that it now not has,” he mentioned after arriving in Gabon.

“Folks additionally nonetheless appear to anticipate France to take positions that it refuses to take, and I take full accountability for that. In Gabon as elsewhere, France is a impartial interlocutor that speaks to everybody and whose function is to not intrude in home political exchanges.”

Many individuals in Gabon and throughout the area don’t see it this manner.

Pulling the strings

France at present has a whole lot of troops completely deployed in Gabon, which like different former French colonies within the area makes use of the Central African Franc, a forex pegged to the Euro and backed by ensures from the French treasury.

French mining firm Eramet is Gabon’s second-largest personal employer; it has introduced that given the present unrest, it’s suspending its operations.

Throughout Macron’s time in workplace, as earlier than, France’s navy and political affect has been on full show in its former African colonies, together with on the subject of easing or averting violent transitions of energy.

To take one instance, French planes bombed rebels in northeastern Chad for 3 days in 2019 in assist of then-president Idriss Déby, whom Paris had backed in an earlier putsch.


Maybe probably the most tough entrance of French involvement has been its lengthy navy embroilment in Mali, the place it led an almost decade-long navy operation to fight a vicious jihadist insurgency.

The operation was wound up in 2022 after the rise of a navy junta that France and its allies mentioned had brought about “a number of obstructions” to the mission.

The Russian issue

However there may be extra at stake for France right here than mere self-interest.

As French political scientist Nicolas Tenzer wrote for Euronews, France’s seemingly paradoxical behaviour in direction of its former African colonies lately is to some extent pushed by the dual imperatives of pushing again towards violent jihadism – particularly in Mali – and the affect of Russia.

Russia has been delivering arms to some nations for twenty years, he defined, and its notoriously violent mercenaries play an outsized safety function in lots of of those locations. The newest Mali disaster, he wrote, was “the most recent illustration of Russia’s work within the shadows to drag nations into its sphere of affect, one of many best threats that Africa is at present dealing with.


“Whereas China’s recreation plan in Africa is centred across the plundering of African sources, Moscow can be targeted on countering Western affect on the continent,” he defined.

Russia’s problem to European affect in Africa is more and more seen. Through the early phases of the latest coup in Niger, Russian flags have been seen on the streets of the capital, Niamey, as have been posters studying “Down with France, lengthy stay Putin!”.

Nonetheless, as Chatham Home’s Alex Vines advised Euronews on the time, “It isn’t tough handy out a number of Russian flags. And the show of Russian flags is extra an expression of anti-Western, particularly anti-French, sentiment than assist for Russia as such.”

However no matter Russia’s true function in Niger or elsewhere in what critics name “Françafrique”, France is never if ever seen because the “impartial interlocutor” Macron claimed to be only a few months in the past. And that’s earlier than the most recent in a sequence of dramatic navy coups introduced resentment towards its ongoing presence to the floor.

And simply earlier than the Gabonese election started to provide approach to navy motion, the state media watchdog not solely lower off web entry within the nation but additionally banned French broadcasters France 24, TV5 Monde and Radio France Internationale.


The sign was that for all Gabon might need been unbiased for six many years, the French media stays the primary supply of data for a lot of its citizens, simply because the Elysee Palace stays a very powerful exterior participant in its politics.

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