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Date: Tue, 18 Jun 1996 16:25:01 CDT
Reply-To: ww@wwpublish.com
Sender: Activists Mailing List <ACTIV-L@MIZZOU1.MISSOURI.EDU>
From: NY Transfer News Collective <nyt@blythe.org>
Subject: French, US in Central African Republic: Why?

Why are the French, U.S. troops in the Central African Republic?

By Deirdre Griswold, Workers World, 6 June 1996

Once again the slanted news coverage about Africa depicts an area that would spin into anarchy without the intervention of troops from the imperialist countries. The odious term "white man's burden" is no longer used in the capitalist media, of course--but the implication remains.

This time the area of struggle is the Central African Republic, a country the size of Texas with a population of about 3.3 million. Once part of France's lucrative colonial empire, it became nominally independent in 1960.

On May 18, for the second time in a month, troops of the C.A.R. army mutinied against the government of President Ange-Felix Patasse. France has 1,400 troops stationed permanently in the C.A.R., but quickly flew in hundreds more from Gabon and Chad.

French put down uprising

The mutiny touched off a popular uprising that was put down by the French. On May 23, some 10,000 people marched through downtown Bangui with banners denouncing the government and French imperialism.

They burned down the French cultural center.

When they tried to march to the French Embassy, they were driven off by French soldiers lobbing tear gas and firing their weapons, reportedly into the air. The Associated Press reported May 27 that Mirage jet fighters and helicopter gunships also fired into the city.

The U.S. government sent about 65 Marines to the capital city of Bangui, supposedly to rescue U.S. nationals.

French and U.S. imperialism have been increasingly at odds in Africa. Fierce economic rivalry often takes the form of one language prevailing over the other in commerce, diplomacy and culture.

For example, in Rwanda, a predominantly English-speaking Tutsi government was installed after the 1994 military victory of the Rwandan Patriotic Front over the French- speaking Hutus. This year Rwanda made English an official language, codifying France's setback in the region--and Washington's gain.

When it looks like an uprising of the oppressed masses might succeed, however, it is amazing how quickly these imperialist competitors can decide to cooperate--if only momentarily--to restore the power of the state. That seems to have happened in Bangui.

Nicholas Burns of the U.S. State Department, who briefed reporters here on the role of the Marines in Bangui, knows the international media are well aware of the cutthroat competition between Washington and Paris. So when a reporter asked him to relate "an interesting little story" on how French troops came to the rescue of U.S. Marines pinned down during the fighting, Burns made sure to thank the French effusively.


The misery that drives political turmoil in so many African states is the offspring of centuries of intense exploitation, first by European capital and more recently by U.S. capital.

These looters have taken so much out of Africa--beginning with the people themselves in the slave trade--that this rich continent today remains underdeveloped and deeply in debt to Western capitalist banks to boot.

An economic tailspin began in the Central African Republic two years ago when France forced a devaluation of the franc in all the French-speaking African countries. This spurred exports and raised investors' profits. But it also drove up prices to consumers, cheapened workers' wages and left many of the people with no alternative but to revolt against the government.

Africa is maligned in the West as an economic "basket case" always looking for a handout. The truth is just the opposite.

A report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development released at the end of 1995 shows that outside investors get a bigger rate of return--or profit--in Africa than they do anywhere else. Drawing on data covering 1980 through 1993, UNCTAD said that U.S. investors, for example, got a 25.25-percent return on every dollar invested in Africa, compared to 23.68 percent in Asia and only about half that in Canada.

The report, "Transnational Corporations and Competitiveness," draws data from UNCTAD, the World Bank, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and the U.S. Commerce Department.

It is clear that the imperialist bandits are fighting over who will get the biggest spoils in Africa, not over who can be the biggest "humanitarian."

Copyright Workers World Service: Permission to reprint granted if source is cited. For more information contact Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011; via e-mail: ww@wwpublish.com. For subscription info send message to: ww-info@wwpublish.com. Web: http://www.workers.org)