The decline of French imperialism in Africa
FROM BARKHANE TO WAGNER
In 2013, the French intervention in the Sahel – Operation Barkhane – aimed to strengthen France's military and political presence in the region. It was a resounding failure. The French army failed to defeat the Islamist insurgents, and in fact they spread to new countries. The French troops only succeeded in making themselves hated in the eyes of the population, and in discrediting themselves in front of a good part of the local military, who had grown sick and tired with the colonial behaviour of their French ‘partners’. As a result, the local bourgeoisie is increasingly turning to Russia and China.
At the end of 2020, the government of President Touadera in the Central African Republic asked Russia for help in fighting a French-backed rebellion. Moscow immediately sent in mercenaries from the Wagner Group, who repelled the rebellion and recaptured more than half the country’s territory. In the wake of this, Touadera demanded – and obtained – the permanent departure of French troops.
In 2021 and 2022, a series of coups led by ‘pro-Russian’ soldiers overthrew pro-French regimes in Mali and Burkina Faso. The new Malian government asked the French soldiers to leave and the Russians to replace them. A few months later, the new government of Burkina Faso demanded the departure of French troops. Thus, in less than eighteen months, the French army has had to evacuate three countries that were previously crucial parts of its presence in Africa.
WAR BY PROXY
During his last meeting with Vladimir Putin on 7 February 2022, Emmanuel Macron talked a lot about the situation in Africa. He probably hoped to negotiate a compromise and end the costly proxy war between Paris and Moscow. The war in Ukraine and the sanctions against Russia have dashed Macron’s hopes in this area.
Since then, the situation has continued to deteriorate. In December, Dimitri Sytyi, one of Wagner’s executives in the Central African Republic, was wounded by a package bomb. At the beginning of March, a factory in Bangui belonging to the French company Castel was set on fire, most likely by Wagner’s men. On 19 March, a Chinese company was attacked, probably by more or less pro-French rebels. Nine Chinese workers were killed.
This proxy war between France and its imperialist rivals will continue to accompany the decline of French imperialism. The first victims will be the workers of Africa. But this struggle will also have an impact on the workers of France, as the bourgeoisie seek to make up for lost profits abroad by intensifying exploitation at home. To put an end to this chaos, there must be a common struggle of the workers of France and Africa against imperialism and capitalism.