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Features

Central African Republic: the hidden hands behind ‘yet another good coup’

Antoine Roger Lokongo

2013-04-17, Issue 626

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/87025

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An analysis of the factors that produced the recent coup d’etat in the Central African Republic reveals the interests of France, the US and neo-colonial African forces

Is the coup d’état which ushered President Francois Bozizé of Central African Republic’s overthrow yet another Libya or Ivory Coast? All signs point to a ‘Yes’ answer to this question.

HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF?

It is certainly true that Francois Bozizé, a veteran military strongman who served as a general under Emperor Bokassa’s 1977-79 as army chief of staff, took power in Central African Republic (CAR) in 2003, after overthrowing President Ange Felix Patassé in a coup d'état with the backing of President Idriss Déby of Chad. Patassé was then harbouring Chadian rebels who were mounting incursions from CAR into the Chadian territory. According to a then report by the IRIN on 17 March 2003, Patasse, 65, had held power since 1993 when he won the first democratic elections, and was re-elected in 1999. During his 10 years in office, he faced three military mutinies and four coup attempts (his predecessor, Andre Kolingba, organised one coup on 28 May 2001, the others were by Bozize on 2 November 2001, 25 October 2002 until he was successful). Bozizé first launched an unsuccessful bid to seize power on 25 October 2002 when he invaded the capital, Bangui. Libyan troops, then guarding President Ange-Felix Patasse, flushed out Bozize’s men forcing them to retreat to the north and across the border into Chad. After the Libyans left the country, they were replaced by some 300 troops of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central African States, CEMAC. Bozize’s forces entered Bangui on a Saturday unopposed, capturing the presidential palace and the capital Bangui’s M’poko Airport, both of which were guarded by CEMAC troops. The CEMAC troops offered no resistance and withdrew from both sites to their barracks near the airport; abandoning the presidential palace to looters. The speed of Bozize’s seizure of the capital surprised many. Before the seizure, government troops had recaptured some towns in rebel hands - and seemed to have the upper hand.

CONDEMNATION OF THE COUP

IRIN reported that condemnation of the coup was swift. The African Union, the continent’s foremost political body, ‘strongly condemned’ Bozize's action. It’s then chairman, President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, said the coup undermined the continent’s effort aimed at sustained development. A statement then issued by the South African Department of Foreign Affairs said, ‘The African continent will never countenance any unconstitutional transfer of power whatever the quarter.’

Since the ‘Seleka’ (which means ‘alliance’ in the Sango local language) seized power and Bozize fled, it seems that Central Africans relived exactly the same scenario: military support coming from Chad, African peacekeeping troops offering no resistance, the speed of Seleka’s seizure of the capital surprising many, followed by killings and looting, the international community’s condemnation, and CAR being suspended from the AU. This time like in 2003, ‘The AU council has decided to suspend with immediate effect (the) Central African Republic from all African Union activities and to impose sanctions, travel restrictions and an asset freeze on Seleka’s leaders,’ as AU peace and security chief Ramtane Lamamra declared, adding that ‘The council asks all member states to take the measures necessary to completely isolate the authors of this anti--constitutional change of power ... not to afford them sanctuary and to facilitate the application of any other measure decided by the African Union, including trying the authors of this anti-constitutional change of government.’

However, the difference between the ‘Bozize’ power seizure in 2003 and the ‘Seleka power seizure’ in 2013, first of all, is that fighters of Congolese Jean-Pierre Bemba’s Mouvement de Libération du Congo (MLC), who have then been backing Patasse since October 2002, fled across the Oubangui River into northwestern Democratic Republic of the Congo, taunted by a jeering and hostile public. The MLC had been blamed for widespread looting and rape when they helped Patasse’s army put down the October rebellion, crimes for which Jean Pierre Bemba is now in detention at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague.

Secondly, in contrast to the Seleka coalition, the public warmly welcomed Bozize’s men, women even spread out their clothes on the ground for the rebel vehicles to pass (according to the same IRIN report); and there was no massive displacement of Bangui residents. That was a sign of popular support to the change! This time, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), an estimated 5,000 people (the majority of whom are children, ranging in age from 2 to 14 - unconfirmed reports indicate as many as 2,000 may be unaccompanied) have fled to safety in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where they live in dire living conditions. That is on top of the 22,100 CAR refugees who arrived in DRC over the past year. Reports of human rights abuses have surfaced, including allegations of killings, rapes and looting. The Red Cross had found some 78 bodies in the streets of Bangui since it fell to rebels and was treating scores of wounded people. According to a Unicef’s January 2013 report, most of these children, aged between 3 and 18, come from the weaker sections of the country. The boys are forced into battlefields, carry military equipment or act as messengers; while girls cook and are used as sex objects or slaves. Leila Zerrougui, U.N. special envoy for children and armed conflicts, said Seleka factions were conscripting child soldiers despite commitments made in November 2011.

‘The same actors have been violating child rights with impunity for too long. We will continue to monitor the situation and if no progress is made, we will engage the (U.N.) Security Council on this matter,’ she said.

In reality Seleka is a marauding force which has shown no remorse in perpetrating enormous brutality on the people. Seleka’s only vision is to become a government and provide patronage to their supporters. Over recent months, they have already committed human rights abuses and extracted tribute from those passing through or living in areas it controlled. They controlled large swath of areas, raised taxes, and so how much money have they brought to the treasury?

BOZIZE’S PROMISE TO RETURN THE COUNTRY TO DEMOCRATIC RULE FULFILLED

Bozize promised to return the country to democratic rule and so a new constitution was passed by referendum in December 2004. He ran as an independent in the 2005 poll, which he won with 64 percent of the vote. He gained a similar percentage in the January 2011 elections, which the opposition denounced as fraudulent, according to a 31 March 2013 BBC report, but ‘the international community never expressed dissatisfaction to the process of governance displayed by Bozize,’ as Paul Orodi a Nairobi-based stringer for ‘Allvoices.com’ put it. In 2006, Bozize was confronted with the rebellions of the People’s Army for the Restoration of Democracy (APRD) led by Jean-Jacques Démafouth, former Defense Minister under Patasse, the Union of Democratic Forces for Unity (UDFU) or the UFDR with its French initials led Michel Djotodia, a former civil servant and The Front Démocratique du Peuple Centrafricain (Central African People’s Democratic Front - FDPC) led by General Abdoulaye Miskine. State security forces had little presence outside the capital, Bangui. Much of the northwestern and northeastern part of the country was under the control of armed groups or criminal gangs. The insecurity displaced about 170,000 people, devastated basic infrastructures and stifled economic development and agricultural production.

On 9 May 2008, Bozizie’s government and the People’s Army for the Restoration of Democracy (APRD), a rebel group active in the north-western CAR, signed a peace deal and ceasefire accord. This accord complemented those successively signed on 2 February 2007 in Sirte, Libya with the Front for the central African People’s Democracy (FDPC) of Abdoulaye Miskine and on 13 April 2007 with the Union of Democratic Forces for Rally (UFDR) of Michel Am Non Droko Djotodia.

In June 2008, representatives from the government and all the various rebel groups signed a comprehensive peace accord in Libreville, ‘African Press Agency’ reported on 21 June 2008, followed by the December 2008 ‘Inclusive Political Dialogue’ which called for the creation of a government of national unity; the holding of municipal elections in 2009, and legislative and presidential elections in 2010, which actually took place in January and March 2011 and which Bozize won; the creation of a national human rights commission; the launch of a program for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) of former combatants.

After being ousted by Bozize in 2003, Patasse went into exile in Togo. However, Bozize allowed him to return to Bangui in 2009, six years later, in an effort to promote national reconciliation in order to achieve peace and security, to strengthen the economy, and improve the human rights situation. The 2008 peace agreement helped bring a degree of stability to the country. In July 2008, the regional peace-keeping force MICOPAX, under the responsibility of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), replaced the Multinational Force in the Central African Republic (FOMUC) starting its mandate in Jan 2009 with an objective ‘to protect civilians, secure the territory, contribute to the national reconciliation process and facilitate political dialogue.’ On 12 June 2011, Bozizie's government signed a ceasefire agreement with the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP), the only major armed group not to have signed the June 2008 Libreville Comprehensive Peace Agreement. On 25 June 2011, the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) for ex-combatants, with 5 groups participating, was launched.

However, contrary to all expectations, three major rebel groups, the Convention Patriotique pour le Salut du Kodro (CPSK, Patriotic Convention for Saving the Country), Convention des Patriotes pour la Justice et la Paix (CPJP, Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace), and Union des Forces Démocratiques pour le Rassemblement (UFDR, Union of Democratic Forces for Unity) united to form the Séléka Coalition. In November 2012, they immediately launched a new, major offensive against government forces and continued to seize towns in northern and southeast Central African Republic. In December 2012, Chad dispatched troops to help defend the capital from rebel forces; and in January 2013, the Communauté Économique des États de l'Afrique Centrale (CEEAC, Economic Community of Central African States) mediated a ceasefire in Libreville, Gabon.

According to a SABC report on 9 February 2013, the new deal included a formal cease fire by the rebels, appointment of a new prime minister with full executive power from the political opposition and the establishment of a GNU that will usher the country to a parliamentary election within twelve months in order to replace the current National Assembly alleged to be dominated by Bozize’s aides. Additionally, under this new deal rebels agreed to allow Bozize to stay in power until his term ends in 2016 and they also called for withdrawal of all foreign troops, meaning South African troops from CAR. Peacekeeping troops from Chad were supplemented from neighboring African states, including Gabon and Congo-Brazzaville.

The implementation of the Libreville agreement obviously needed more time in a country devastated and bankrupted by war. However, despite the formation of a national unity government, led by the main opposition leader Nicolas Tiangaye, appointed as prime minister by Bozize, and despite the two decrees Bozize signed to free prisoners and remove all road blocks set up by his supporters, (Bozize appointed himself defense minister after sacking his son Jean Francis Bozize as defense minister as well his army’s chief of staff Gen. Guillaume Lapo, to pave the way for the rebels to be integrated into the army), in March 2013, Séléka rebels resumed their advance despite the ceasefire agreement, seized the capital Bangui and overthrew Bozize. So far for the background.

THE BEGINNING OF A MORE AUTHORITARIAN REGIME

A report by ‘Al Jazeera’, relayed by the ‘Inter-Press Service News Agency’ on 25 March 2012, quoted Professor Andreas Mehler, from the German Institute for Global Area Studies, as saying that ‘the rebel takeover that ended Bozizé’s decade-long rule may mark the beginning of a more authoritarian regime.’
‘It could also mean that less inclusionary politics could see the light of day, particularly with regard to the Muslim part of the population,’ Mehler said. ‘At least some of the rebel components are considered to have such an agenda.’
Rebel leader Michel Djotodia, meanwhile, declared himself president, but not all Séléka factions endorsed that claim in the beginning.

Djotodia had been the vice prime minister and defence minister in the unity government until when Bozizie, who survived three coup attempts in 2012 alone, fled. Djotodia pledged to keep many ministers appointed by Bozize in the unity government, including Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye; he suspended the constitution, declared that he would rule by decrees for three years instead of setting up a transitional council. However, in an interview with a Central African Republic news agency, Nelson Njadder, leader of the CPSK faction of Séléka, said elections would be held in a year’s time. Prime Minister Tiangaye endorsed that position.

Moroever, it is believed that two other rebel groups, CPJP Fondamentale and CPSK, are currently still roaming the jungle of CAR, and it remains unclear whether they will also seek the help of Chad to overthrow CAR self-proclaimed President Michel Djotodia, as Issa Sikiti Da Silva reported for ‘moonofthesouth.com’ on 4 April 2013.

But German Professor Mehler in the same interview expressed skepticism over the post-coup announcements, saying the material interests of the group were a key factor in determining the rebels’ future actions. ‘The movement is made up of many “politico-military entrepreneurs,” he said.

‘Coup leaders and rebels want to win hearts and minds from the outset and usually announce grandiose things,’ Mehler said in that interview with Al Jazeera. ‘Everything should be taken with a grain of salt. Corporate interests of the rebel combatants … will certainly play a major role (in what happens next).’

According to ‘Al Jazeera,’ the situation in the Central African Republic deteriorated after five government ministers were detained by the rebels after a 17 March 2013 meeting, which was also attended by representatives from the African Union and United Nations, in the town of Sibut, 185 kilometres north of Bangui. One of those held by the Séléka was Djotodia, who said the decision to detain the ministers was made by rebels on the ground.

Djotodia was quoted as saying: ‘I am not the one who decided this. There are units who have made this decision. It is a type of pressure. They want the head of state to respect the terms of the accord that was signed.’

The Séléka have complained that, under the unity government, their demands for military integration, prisoner releases and the withdrawal of South African troops… have been ignored. Details of what exactly happened still remain unclear.

However, for Professor Mehler, the circumstances were unknown. Nevertheless, he suggested that the hostage taking of the five ministers may have been part of a wider plot to seize power and oust Bozizé.

‘It now looks as if the move to ‘arrest’ a couple of ministers, including Michel Djotodia, was just a small ploy in a wider game to install him at the head of CAR,’ he said.

WHENCE CAME SELEKA’S FIRE POWER?

Like Bozize’s capture of Bangui in 2003, the speed of Seleka’s seizure of the capital surprised many. All of a sudden, their fire power increased so much so that they just walked over Bangui in no time. They sported brand new uniforms, drove in brand new pickups, brandishing brand new weapons. According to reliable sources, the numbers of the Seleka coalition rebels were swollen by soldiers coming from Darfur or even mercenaries from other countries such as Mali or even northern Nigeria where Boko Haram Islamists are based (the Seleka coalition is made up rebel groups from the north of Central African Republic. They are all Muslims), or even from the Darfur region. Darfur is where Rwanda and Uganda have deployed hundreds of troops, paid for by America, to stop what they call mass killing by the Sudanese government against the Darfurians.

Bozize has now denounced what he calls ‘an international plot’ against him. If that is the case, what are the implications going to be for the whole region? Will there be any spill over into neighbouring countries (DRC or Cameroon?) especially now that Rwanda and Uganda have already deployed troops in eastern Congo masquerading as M23 rebels. Could they open another front in Western Congo with the complicity of Seleka? That is why Western media all reported that Bozize had fled to the DRC (so pursue him there?). Or, Bozize first flew to Cameroon and then to Benin. Cameroonian opposition could also seize this opportunity to destabilize the country’s long-time ruler Paul Biya. Could Michel Djotodia turn out to be a destabilizing factor in the region just as Rwanda and Uganda are in eastern Congo? Countries in the region would not let themselves be duped and they are prepared to any eventualities.

FRANCE AND THE US INDIFFERENCE THAT SPEAKS VOLUME

There are certainly geopolitical reasons why Bozize had to go. The United States ‘strongly condemned the illegitimate seizure of power by force by the Seleka rebel alliance, Michel Djotodia’s self-appointment as president, and his suspension of the constitution and National Assembly.’ In the words of State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, ‘any decisions on the future of the country must be taken in an inclusive and transparent manner, consistent with the Libreville Agreement which was approved by all sides, overseen by the Economic Community of Central African States (EECAS) and recognized by the African Union.’

If we push the logic too far, such a statement would endorse the re-installment of Bozize into power, since according to the Libreville Agreement , Bozize had to stay in power till 2016. Victoria Nuland stopped short of calling for Bozize to be re-installed in power.

Victoria Nuland said that ‘Washington continues to recognise the national unity government led by Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye as the only legitimate government’ in the impoverished and frequently unstable country, which France has dubbed the neglected ‘Cinderella’ of their African colonial empire and the Americans have called it a ‘phantom state.’ But who is Nicolas Tiangaye?

According to the ‘World Socialist Web Site’ report on 1 April 2013, Tiangaye is a lawyer and a member of the Human Rights League (HRL), a global network of human rights operatives headquartered in Paris and run with financial support from European governments and Washington. Political operatives from the HRL have played a crucial role in helping organize and promote the imperialist agenda in Libya, Syria and elsewhere.

Moreover, according to an AFP report on 19 December 2011, US special forces set up a base in the Central African Republic as part of their regional hunt for fighters of the Ugandan-born Lord's Resistance Army group. The US elite troops set up a base in Obo to coordinate their efforts with local government forces and Ugandan soldiers after US President Barack Obama announced in October 2011 that he was sending 100 special forces soldiers to Kampala to help Uganda track down LRA chief and international fugitive Joseph Kony. We do not know what sort of contacts these US special forces have with the Seleka rebels or whether the relatively limited American military deployment to CAR had quickly developed into a wider intervention. In fact, as the Seleka militias close on the capital, Bangui, the US deployed an additional 50 troops to the country.

France likewise intervened, on the basis of protecting its 1,200 citizens in the country. After maintaining soldiers in CAR on a near continuous basis since granting formal independence to its former colony in 1960 (France had installed two military bases in the country, one in the capital, the other in Bouar facing Chad and enabling regional interventions), Paris boosted its previously existing 250-troop deployment to nearly 600 as ‘GlobalResearch.ca’ reported on 2 January 2013. The reason why French troops immediately secured the capital’s airport was to prevent troops from friendly countries to the Bozize regime, especially South Africa, from being deployed in order to save Bozize. They were there to support the new regime headed by Michel Djotodia, heading the Seleka rebel coalition, the ‘World Socialist Web Site’ report on 1 April 2013.

Bozize has urged the US and France to intervene against the rebel forces but his call fell on deaf ears. Pro-intervention protests, organised by or tacitly endorsed by the government, were staged outside the American and French embassies in Bangui. Demonstrators reportedly accused Paris of supporting the rebels. French President Francois Hollande claimed neutrality, declaring: ‘If we are present, it is not to protect a regime, it is to protect our nationals and our interests, and in no way to intervene in the internal affairs of a country, in this case Central Africa. Those days are gone.’

If that is the case, why did France intervene in the internal affairs of Ivory Coast then, literally kidnapping Laurent Gbagbo who really won the elections and putting Alassane Ouattara into power? In its 2 January 2013 report, ‘GlobalResearch.ca’ concluded that behind this bogus ‘non-intervention’ posture, the French government was undoubtedly working hand in hand with the Obama administration to determine the outcome of the crisis in CAR because France has been intimately involved in every change of government in its former colony since 1960. In fact, after declaring himself president, Djotodia said that he would invite France, CAR’s former colonial power, along with the EU and the United States, to retrain the country’s army.

‘We will rely on the European Union to help us develop this country,’ Djotodia said, adding that about 80 per cent of the country’s foreign aid has come from the bloc. ‘When we have been sick, the European Union was at our bedside. It will not abandon us now.’ Let us wait and see what the reaction of France, EU and US would be. If they respond favorably to Djotodia’s plea, then we will not fail to see that they were behind the coup, which ironically, they condemned.

AFRICAN FORCES CALCULATED FAILURE TO STOP THE REBELS FROM CAPTURING BANGUI

The regional peacekeeping force, known as the Mission for the Consolidation of Peace in Central African Republic (Micopax), which is European Union-funded, was tasked to protect civilians and secure territory in CAR since 2008. However, they did not stop the Seleka offensive on Bangui nor did they engage the rebels militarily. Thierry Vircoulon of the International Crisis Group, described Micopax’s apparent absence during the march on Bangui as ‘disturbing,’ in fact suggesting that ‘perhaps they had instructions … not to do anything,’ according to the ‘Al Jazeera’ report referred to above. There you are! More 50 years after African countries’ independence, the principle of ‘Western money, African boots’ is still at work! Vircoulon was probably right. After all, who pays the piper calls the tune.

Later on, while in Cameroon, on his way to Benin exile, Bozize gave an interview to the BBC on 3 April 2013, in which he revealed that it was ‘Chadian special forces’ who led the final operation of last month’s rebellion, including an attack on a base of South African troops.

‘On Saturday March 23 we had neutralised Seleka forces but overnight into Sunday 24, we knew that there had been support from an African country, which I inevitably believe was Chad,’ Bozize, who fled to Cameroon after the rebellion, told the ‘BBC French Service.’

‘We can confirm it was Chadian special forces that led the operation on the Sunday morning and attacked the barracks of the South Africans. We had strong brotherly relations with Chad, but we were surprised by their behaviour. Only Chadian authorities can give us an explanation,’ Bozize said.

Issa Sikiti Da Silva reported for ‘moonofthesouth.com’on 4 April 2013 that ‘Le Journal de Brazza’ had revealed that the arms that were used by the Seleka rebels during the final assault on the presidential palace in Bangui were purchased in Eritrea, and transited by Chad with the permission of Chadian President Idriss Déby. Chad is ‘working with France in Mali,’ and therefore France certainly knew what Chad was going to do in CAR. Chad probably wants also to consolidate its position as a regional military power, expecting no more troubles coming from Chadian CAR-based rebels. Bozize was not allowed to attend the Extraordinary Summit of Ndjamena on 3 April 2013 but Djotodia was; and which deliberated on the latest developments in CAR.

It is not just Chad that he criticized in the BBC interview. He also lamented the breakdown of his relationship with Congo-Brazzaville. ‘It is the same situation; we had the same relationship with the Congo Brazzaville [as] the one we had with Chad,’ he said.

According to ‘dailymaverick.co.za,’ which relayed the BBC interview, more to the point, Bozize appeared to have realised that his former allies will not risk their own national security to see him re-installed as CAR leader.

‘I called President [Denis Sassou Nguesso of Congo Brazzaville] to say that I would like to be present at the Extraordinary Summit of Ndjamena tomorrow, but unfortunately it seems that the protocol gave a negative response,’ he said. A week later, Sassou Nguesso was in Paris on a official visit. Bozize also traced back the roots of the insurgency to a petrol war, blaming American businessman Jack Grynberg for his woes. He indicated that he believed he had been the victim of an international conspiracy to get rid of him. ‘This is all showing the very well-oiled plot by Seleka that is presented to the international community,’ he said.

ENTER CHINA AND SOUTH AFRICA

The coup by Seleka forces, which took place just as South Africa, the most influential regional power on the continent, was hosting a summit of the BRICS emerging states and welcomed new Chinese President Xi Jinping on his first visit to Africa as head of state, has placed the CAR at the center of a struggle for influence between the United States, France, South Africa and China. When Bozize came to power, he found the state coffers totally empty, civil servants and military officials had not been paid for years. It was at this time that, the international community, especially, Europeans, French and Belgians in the lead, required the organization of general elections before any budgetary support. Bozizé then won two successive elections, negotiated with the armed groups, but he also asked for help from China, which gave him some loans. He was then suspected by Western powers of wanting to give oil and uranium concessions to China, while, in fact, the French company Areva, very active on the issue, estimated that global demand for uranium was not sufficient to make investments in CAR, as Colette Braeckman of the Belgian daily ‘Le Soir,’ revealed on 30 December 2012.

For Bozizé’s part, the rebel advance is explicable due to oil concessions recently signed away to Chinese and South African firms. ‘Why did they start raping, killing and hurting the Central African population? (…) We gave them everything. Before giving oil to the Chinese, I met Total in Paris and told them to take the oil, nothing happened, I gave oil to the Chinese and it became a problem. I sent counselor Maidou in Paris for the Uranium dossier, they refused. I finally gave it to the South Africans,’ ‘Counter-punch’ quoted him on 28 March 2013. According to Bozizé therefore, not only would Total refuse the concessions, they would refuse the concessions to other states as well, presumably playing the game of underdevelopment that Africa knows so well.
In fact, Djotodia has already announced that he will review the CAR’s mining and oil contracts with China, signed by the Bozizé government, ‘to see whether things were badly done, to try and sort them out’ (and hand over all these key resources to Western powers, exclusively). If he does so, that will legitimize him. Moreover, President Obama who is deploying troops in 35 African countries is looking for countries that would host his military bases. After all, Djotodia wants them to retrain his army. The coup d’état in CAR is yet another Libya or Ivory Coast. The aim is to push China out of Africa, even cooperating with Al Qaida to reach that goal, as we saw in Libya and Mali. In fact, as President Xi Jinping was touring Africa, U.S. Senator Chris Coons, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, called for ‘US trade concessions to African countries to ‘aggressively’ counter Chinese influence in the continent,’ according to ‘World Socialist Web Site’ report on 16 March 2013.

As far as South Africa is concerned, troops of the South African National Defense Force (SANDF) were deployed in the Central African Republic under a defense cooperation agreement endorsed by both the African Union and the United Nations. In January 2013, South Africa reinforced its military training mission of 26, which had been there since 2007, with a ‘protection force’ of 298 soldiers at the request of Bozize.

As they advanced on Bangui, then held by forces loyal to Bozizé, Seleka fighters encountered a South African National Defense Force (SANDF) detachment who tried to fend off the rebels – a task they paid for with 13 soldiers killed, 27 wounded, and one who remains missing, according to the ‘Al Jazeera’ report referred to above. South Africa has since withdrawn its forces from CAR. Western media and opposition media in South Africa itself have castigated the SANDF mission in CAR as ‘driven by the lure of arms deals and diamonds – and possibly other mineral resources , which sucked the ANC into CAR,’ as the ‘Mail and Guardian’ put it on 28 March 2013. Training CAR troops costs money. If Bozize, a legitimately elected leader, could only pay with what he had: mineral or oil concessions, what is wrong with that? Should the French and the Americans come to train Djotodia’s army, what is he going to pay them with? Angola, the DRC and other African countries have signed ‘win-win’ minerals for infrastructures deals with China which do not leave those countries in debts. What is wrong with that? Why should the fact that South Africa and CAR signed a co-operation agreement in defense, minerals and energy, be a problem for France and America or whoever? Do African countries have no right to trade among themselves or with other emerging countries on a ‘win-win’ basis? Does Africa still need ‘French pré-carrés’ or French zones of influence in the 21st century?

The problem is that, as the global financial crisis caused by the corruption of the Western financial system bites, we will see more so called ‘rebellions’ in Africa. We see it in eastern Congo today, Britain and America directly bankrolling Rwanda and Uganda to create the so-called rebellions there, to kill, rape and loot strategic minerals, especially the mineral coltan which goes into mobile phones, satellites, drones and so on… Africa is paying for the global financial crisis. Most French people now agree that their country is ‘totally bankrupt.’ Where will France revitalize its economy from? From Africa! The Central African Republic, like most African countries, is very rich in minerals, especially diamonds and uranium, but also massive oil reserves that have been discovered both in the north and in the south of the country. France which wants monopoly there, just like it has secured a monopoly in Ivory Coast, does not want to see China and South Africa there. South Africa deployed troops to CAR as part of African Union efforts to assist CAR’s army but also as part of an African solidarity move. African solutions to African problems! France’s hostility towards South African forces can be explained by the fact that France wants to maintain its political, economic and military influence in the region. This hostility concurs with a French Defense Report published in October 2012, which said that ‘France views Pan-Africanism as a threat to Western interests in Africa in general and French interests in Africa in particular!’ However, the embarrassment of South Africa and the BRICS countries in CAR has not deterred South Africa from deploying troops to Eastern Congo together with Tanzania and Malawi in the framework of a UN-SADC intervention force despite threats from Rwanda and Uganda there. In fact South Africa will not abandon a fellow African country, including CAR, nor buckle under the boots of the Anglo-French neo-colonialism.

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