Finian Cunningham (born 1963) has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. He is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in journalism. He is also a musician and songwriter. For nearly 20 years, he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organisations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent. Originally from Belfast, Ireland, he is now located in East Africa as a freelance journalist, where he is writing a book on Bahrain and the Arab Spring, based on eyewitness experience working in the Persian Gulf as an editor of a business magazine and subsequently as a freelance news correspondent. The author was deported from Bahrain in June 2011 because of his critical journalism in which he highlighted systematic human rights violations by regime forces. He is now a columnist on international politics for Press TV and the Strategic Culture Foundation.
– French fox in African hen house (PressTV, Jan 11, 2014):
by Finian Cunningham
The French finally got what they wanted in the restive Central African Republic – regime change.
Interim President Michel Djotodia and his Prime Minister Nicolas Tiengaye have resigned and the former French colony is now set to form a new government under the watchful eye of Paris.
Western media portray French conduct in the Central African Republic (CAR) as a benevolent force. “We are there to save lives,” said French President Francois Hollande recently.
This is like lauding a fox in a hen house. The reality is that violence and suffering have largely stemmed as a direct result of illegal French interference in that African country.
What’s more, we also can say that the violence has been deliberately provoked by the French as a cover for their real objective – regime change.
Djotodia was forced to step down after he was politically ambushed by other Francophile African leaders at a special conference convened at the end of the week in neighboring Chad.
Before the summit, French diplomats had been briefing the media and other African states that Djotodia “had to go”. The French tried to cover their tracks by saying “we are not here to give our thumbs up or down” but that is exactly what they were doing – giving the thumbs down.
French President Francois Hollande and his Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius have been carping about the CAR leader for weeks and undermining his authority. Obviously, the French wanted rid of Djotodia and his administration – and now they have gotten their illicit way. Lest we forget such interference in the sovereign affairs of another state is illegal.
Notably, just before the conference opened on Thursday in Chad, Djotodia rejected rumors of his impending resignation. In less than 24 hours, he then quit, evidently under duress.
Within minutes of Djotodia’s sacking on Friday, and even before he had returned from Chad, French military tanks had surrounded the presidential palace in the CAR capital Bangui. French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian also issued a call for Djotodia to be “replaced as soon as possible”.
Chadian President Idriss Déby had been one of the most vocal African leaders calling for Djotodia to quit. Déby, who is described as “a strong French ally” (in other words, “puppet”), was doing France’s bidding and giving an African voice to a directive from Paris, a directive which amounts to a coup d’état.
The Western media narrative, led by France, is that Djotodia “had not done enough to curb the violence” gripping the CAR. More than 1,000 people have been killed in recent weeks in sectarian clashes between Muslims and Christians. Roughly a quarter of the country’s five million population have been displaced in the fighting.
Djotodia came to power last year after Muslim rebels known as Seleka deposed the Christian president Francois Bozizé in March. Bozizé was notorious for corruption and had come to power through a French-backed military coup 11 years ago.
With major French commercial interests in the resource-rich country, in particular uranium mining, it seems that France was vexed about the new transitional government led by Michel Djotodia – the first Muslim leader of the mainly Christian country.
Djotodia’s interim administration was legally constituted last April and it was overseeing a transition with elections scheduled at the end of this year.
However, that did not seem good enough to allay the French, who wanted to exert tighter control over the political process within the CAR in order to secure favorable conditions for its commercial interests.
This is real basis for the French military invasion, not the humanitarian pretext that the Hollande government has been trumpeting.
Last month, chaos and violence in the African country surged after France sent in its troops – allegedly to provide “humanitarian protection” in a situation where there had been no serious violence, apart from French government scaremongering of “imminent genocide”.
French military were dispatched to the CAR on December 2, three days before a French-drafted resolution was passed at the United Nations Security Council authorizing the intervention.
More French troops arrived on December 5, 2013, and only since then have the sectarian clashes in Bangui city and across the country escalated.
The conclusion is inescapable. The humanitarian crisis in the CAR was precipitated by French involvement, not prevented. A major factor for the violence is that the French military moved to unilaterally disarm the Seleka rebels while ignoring Christian vigilante groups known as Anti-Balaka.
The latter were, in effect, given a free hand to maraud Muslim communities and businesses with deadly consequences.
It is therefore obtuse and mendacious for the French government and its African clients to blame Michel Djotodia for not controlling security in his country.
The real culprit for the bloodshed and pandemonium that jolted the CAR is French interference in that country– interference that was illegal and was cynically disguised as “humanitarian.”
There are deep fears that violence against Muslim communities will increase further now that Michel Djotodia has been forced from office.
The Christian Anti-Balaka militias will feel emboldened by the French political interference. Many believe that the Anti-Balaka is being orchestrated by the former French puppet Bozizé from his exile in France.
Tragically, this is just the latest episode of misery for the Central African Republic caused by French neo-imperialist predation.
Since gaining so-called independence from France in 1960, the French have launched more covert coups and countercoups in that country than in any other former African colony.
The CAR remains politically and economically underdeveloped – despite its teeming natural wealth – precisely because of systematic French predatory exploitation.
Poverty in the Central African Republic, as in many other African countries, is a direct result of French policy, primarily due to the “franc afrique” monetary system set up at the time of independence.
This systematic poverty enables France to exploit raw materials and the people mercilessly. And when the racket comes a bit unstuck, the French send in their troops to “restore order”.
What the international community, such as the Non-Aligned Movement of over 100 nations, should be doing is to call for the prosecution of France, not applauding this fox in a hen house.