France has over the decades been a key player in the violent drama of Central African Republic politics. But there are other interested parties involved. CAR is a case study of how neo-colonial greed can destroy a country
France, as a country exhausted by German colonial rule during the 1938-1945 war, still dreamed of a world in which there was ‘permanent exclusion of self-government of the African territories’ she exploited as occupied lands. The 1944 Declaration made from Brazzaville in Congo said so. In 1958, this wish was rudely shattered by Ahmed Sekou Toure, a militant trade unionist, who aroused the people of Guinea to vote for independence. Humiliated French officials ripped phones from offices and destroyed or carried away furniture and government documents with a bitter notion of taking Guinea back to barbarism. In panic resulting from fears that Ghana’s freedom in 1957 would infect its French-ruled neighbours, officials in Paris swallowed Sekou Toure’s vision and forced allies like Houphuet Boigny of Ivory Coast to accept rupture from France.
Paradoxically, France pursued this new conviction and made attempts to retain the federation of nine colonies ruled from Dakar in Senegal (Guinea, Upper Volta, Dahomey, Niger, Mali, Togo, Ivory Coast, Mauritania and Senegal) and the four colonies ruled from Brazzaville (Chad, Cameroun Congo and Ubangi Shari). Bathelemey Boganda, a Catholic priest turned leading politician in Central Africa and a passionate and charismatic advocate for a ‘Latin Central Africa’ (including Belgian Congo, Rwanda-Urundi and Angola), is believed to have been assassinated by the French. Boganda remained loyal to his love for a pan-African entity by renaming his country as the Central African Republic (CAR).
France was the second raider to love the Central African Republic. The CAR allocated vast tracts of land to 17 French companies charged with collecting resources for French industries. These companies forced hundreds of thousands of inhabitants to harvest the land. Jean Suret-Canale claims that over five million of them perished. Several administrators and journalists accused officials and companies of genocide and what is today labelled as committing crimes against humanity.
Boganda, who composed the country’s national anthem, the E-Zingo (translated into French as ‘Le Renaissance’) in the widely spoken Sango language, injected his own love for his country into it by referring to his people as ‘Long subjugated, long scorned by all/But from today, breaking tyranny’s hold’.
Another lover of the CAR was Jean Bodel Bokasa, self-crowned as ‘His Imperial Majesty Bokasa the First, Emperor of Central Africa’ in the belief that a monarchy would win global respect and make the CAR ‘stand out’ above other African countries. It cost $20 million USD, including a golden throne, regalia and guests. One guest, Giscard D’Estang, former French President, received as a gift one of the biggest diamond stones ever yanked from Africa’s earth. Bokasa’s love for France became sour when on 20 October 1976 he announced his conversion to Islam. Salah Eddine Ahmed Bokasa announced a developmental alliance with Muamar Gadafi. On 20-21 September 1979 France mounted Operation Barracuda and threw Bokasa out of power, thereby denying Gadafi access to Bokasa’s uranium deposits. Libya’s love was France’s poison.
Mounting military coups has continued to be France’s bouquet of flowers to the Central African Republic’s history. It put Bokasa in power and took him out as emperor. In 1981 a coup by Ango-Felix Patasse tossed out David Dacko, himself overthrown in a coup of 2003 by Bozize who, in 2006, was kept in power by French military aircrafts. This tradition paralysed the growth of a strong national army, and encouraged the mushrooming of militias in villages for the purpose of grabbing the minerals they saw foreign companies looting while inept central governments failed to collect rent for the people’s development. Patriots for Justice, a ‘rebel’ group, were in 2012 mining diamonds in areas around Bria, Bamaingui and Samoundja. Over 100,000 people were in 2011 shifting diamond stones from riverbeds to hawk cheaply to agents of Indian companies.
France’s love for the Central African Republic’s rich array of minerals is matched by the love of other NATO countries. A Canadian company, Energem Resources, is among five companies mining diamonds, while Axmin Inc. is among five companies extracting gold. A British company, Pan African Resources, and American company Tamija Gold & Diamond Exploration, Inc., are also mining gold. Other minerals looted for decades out of a weakly-governed Central African Republic include manganese, copper, iron ore, uranium, kyanite and tin. As evidence of a country being looted with brutal cynicism, ‘donor countries’, from which mining companies come, are aware that their ‘aid’ constitutes as high as 89 per cent of the national budget. Bozize may have lost power in March 2013 to better-armed ‘rebels’ because he was seen by NATO satellites to be walking on a red carpet in uranium-hungry China.
Love has cost this desperate country its dreams of a better life. Statistical indicators are brutal. Only 15 per cent of children who enter primary school reach grade five. The population was wasted by Arab slave raids from Darfur’s region of Sudan, Europe’s slave trade across Congo to the Atlantic coast, and decimation by slave labour for French companies. In 2006, the population density was a paltry five persons per square kilometre. The 500,000 tons of cassava produced in 2011 was harvested by malnourished rural small-plot farmers by hand. ‘Breaking poverty and tyranny’, as promised by E-Zingo, is not occurring.
The tragedy of neo-governance in the CAR is a divine gift to Africa’s top woman, Dr. Nkosozana Dlamini-Zuma. She understands, in a special womanly way, the terrible statistics about 60 per cent of CAR’s babies dying before the age of five years and 50 per cent of women dying during childbirth. It should resonate with her and inspire her into mounting an ‘African Union Reconstruction Fund for the CAR’, and getting companies charged with ‘Crimes against Material and Human Development of the CAR’ due to decades of wilful expropriation and genocide.
The United States and the European Union have underlined the moral status of crimes against humanity. The African Union should launch ‘crimes against Africa’s human development’ through ‘blood-love’, in which culpable Euro-American and BRICS corporations, individuals and governments shall yield compensation for economic and industrial reconstruction of victims like the Central African Republic.