Côte d’Ivoire: French imperialism runs amok

On 4 November 2004 the Ivorian air force began bombing rebel-held positions in the centre and north of the country. On 6 November it killed nine French ‘peacekeepers’ and a US ‘aid-worker’ at a military base in Bouaké. France, with over 4,000 troops already in the country under a UN mandate, then destroyed the tiny Ivorian air force of two jets and five helicopters as they lay on the tarmac. ‘You do not kill French soldiers with impunity’, explained French prime minister Raffarin.

French military seized the airport and deployed 50 armoured vehicles in the vicinity of the President Laurent Gbagbo’s Abidjan residence. French soldiers fired into the air, surrounded the presidential mansion and placed barbed wire between them and thousands of Ivorian people who heeded radio appeals to protect their head of state. Strategic bridges were seized and armoured vehicles protected roadblocks from military bases to the airport. At the Hotel Ivoire, commandeered as a military base, French officials held talks with Ivorian army chief of staff, General Doue, while outside French helicopters continued to bomb Abidjan.

On 9 November, French troops opened fire on thousands of demonstrators killing at least ten people. By 10 November, over 50 people had been killed by French troops and over 1,000 injured, with impunity. The UN, EU and US supported this barbarity. Using the pretext of evacuating ex-patriot citizens, foreign troops, including 300 British soldiers and Ghurkas, were sent to Côte d’Ivoire. HMS Albion was ordered to Abidjan.

In Cote d’Ivoire on a pretext of acting as a buffer between the government forces and the rebels the French forces may now decide it is time to replace President Gbagbo with a compliant army officer. Such is the motto of French imperialism: ‘Flatter the president, fund the opposition, then arm the rebels.’

Amid the usual media misinformation, ‘African chaos’, ‘ethnic rivalries’, racist stereotypes about ‘rampaging mobs’ and ‘hordes’ and lies about ‘many European women’ being raped (The Guardian, 12 November 2004), Britain, Spain, Italy and Belgium invaded Côte d’Ivoire. Not one European civilian was killed in all the ‘savage violence’. There are now 10,000 heavily armed French and UN troops in Côte d’Ivoire to protect their interests not just in the world’s largest cocoa producer (with 43% of world supply) but throughout oil-rich West Africa.
Charles Chinweizu

FRFI 182 December 2004 / January 2005


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