French troops in Africa: Out! Out! Out!

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
February 22, 2021

The Barkhane mission in the Sahel region is to be continued, so its 5 100 soldiers will remain there. French president Macron had nothing but positive words about it, welcoming "numerous military victories" and the increasing involvement of Malian and Chadian troops. Getting carried away, he even claimed to have "saved the Sahel", so now it’s supposedly just a matter of finishing the job. What a lie!

We’ve been told this same lie ever since the deployment of troops in Mali in 2013. At the time, Hollande was President and Le Drian, Macron's current foreign minister, was defense minister. Both presented the military operation as a lightning attack. And only a few months later, Hollande boasted in Bamako (Mali’s capital) of having "won the war". That was eight years ago!

Yes, for eight long years French soldiers have been “hunting down the Jihadists in their last entrenchment”. But the more they "decapitate terrorist organizations", as our leaders like to say, the more heads grow back!

Hardly a day goes by without an attack occurring in Mali, Burkina Faso or Niger. Insecurity and obscurantism are the big winners of the disruption caused by the war: two million displaced people; villagers caught between the different factions seeking to impose their rule and plunder their meager resources; young people without prospects who end up being recruited either by networks of traffickers or by fundamentalist militias…

On top of all that the population is attacked and racketeered by the very soldiers who are supposed to protect them, some wearing the Burkina Faso uniform, others the Malian one; and they also endure abuse from French troops. French soldiers are accused of bombing civilians gathered for a wedding on January 3 near the village of Bounti, in central Mali, killing 19 people. How many new jihadist recruits will this create?

The American army has its quagmire in Afghanistan, the French army has its own in the Sahel region! No wonder the government has to face growing criticism, some doubting that the Barkhane forces can win this war, while local populations increasingly see them as occupying forces.

The government is trying to play the humanitarian card. Le Drian has announced strengthened support for development, and Macron says he wants to vaccinate Africa. He’s incapable of vaccinating here in France, and it’s China who’s currently delivering vaccines to Africa–and yet Macron is still pretending that he can take care of it!

France has always justified its military interventions in the name of “development policy”. Colonization itself, with all its looting, forced labor and enslavement of populations, was presented as a civilizing mission!

Since decolonization, France has sent its soldiers to Africa dozens of times. Nowhere did those military interventions help curb underdevelopment or establish democracy and security. As long as the clique chosen by the French President and his closest collaborators is in power, as long as the French bourgeoisie’s business is allowed to prosper, the French state can accept the worst dictatorships.

France posing as the savior of Africa? This is revolting! All the more so as France in the 21st century is still responsible for the plundering of the continent. A sizable portion of the African population is forced into exile by poverty and wars, but Total, which pumps oil in the Congo and Gabon, and Bolloré, which runs West Africa’s main ports and transport networks, are thriving.

What would become of France's so-called “energy independence” if Orano (formerly Areva) wasn’t allowed to extract uranium from Niger?

The era of colonialism is over, but Africa continues to be emptied of its blood and its riches. That reality is the bedrock of Muslim fundamentalism and terrorism. Defending that neo-colonial order is the reason why French troops are present in the Sahel, and also in Côte d'Ivoire, Chad and Djibouti.

Recently the opposition has become more critical of the Barkhane Mission. Some on the left, notably the Communist Party (PCF) and Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s Party (LFI), are asking for a parliamentary discussion to consider the withdrawal of French troops from the Sahel. But in 2013, when Parliament voted to go to war, not a single voice opposed that choice.

When wars break out (like the First World War, like the Algerian War - from 1954 to 1962), all government parties unite and form a holy alliance to defend what they consider to be "the interests of France".

This is precisely how workers can recognize the parties devoted to the bourgeoisie. The working class can only be on the opposite side: against the imperialist bourgeoisie; side by side with the peoples that imperialism plunders, starves and pits against each other!