Friday, November 19, 2004

European Interventions In Africa

Yesterday, Germany decided to help the intervention troops of the African Union sent into Darfur in Sudan with two Transall transport planes, secured with 200 troops. Too little too late, I'd say.

By the way, while the Darfur conflict is an ethnic one between cattle-herding and plant-growing Muslim tribes, the genocidal civil war in the South is also a religious one - and one for oil. This time, it is not the USA but China that is the main foreign party of oil development - which explains why it is China that consistently foiled strong UN Security Council resolutions on the matter of Sudan, the last time yesterday.

In the Ivory Coast, French-led UN troops (UNOCI) do this time what they refused to do in Bosnia (with the exception of an odd general, later dismissed) or Rwanda: prevent the breakout of another civil war. Or did they? The 'offensive' against the rebel North that included the bombing of a UN base, killing nine French blue helmets, had all the hallmarks of a conscious provocation - I can't imagine Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbago[*] wouldn't have had foreseen, and hence that he didn't calculate with French retaliation, especially considering what followed - the French leaders should have guessed that what will follow will be the instigation of anti-French riots, even if those were not only based on actual French military [both UN and other, already stationed there, with the excuse of the defense of 15,000 French expats] actions but false rumours too. The diplomatic intervention of the African Union (with Mbeki from South Africa) cooled down things a little, but this time the rebels refused peace talks, saying nothing will go with Gbago - which led to an UN SC decision on arms sanctions and a promise of travel bans on both sides earlier this week. So UN troops seem likely to be poised to keep apart the two sides under ever stronger rather than abating tensions. That is, they might fail.

Finally, there was the rather limited UN-authorised Franco-German intervention in the D.R. Congo/ex-Zaire, which failed to stop the killing outside of the occupied cities, until the African Union took over and expanded the mission (MONUC).

If European leaders really want the EU to become a military power with focus on peacekeeping and conflict prevention, they must do more than sending alibi contingents or coming after the USA left a big mess, as they did on the Balkans and parts of Afghanistan. Of course, as long as many European governments refuse to admit what most of their citizens can see, that their soldiering along the USA in Iraq has nothing to do with peacekeeping or conflict prevention, it's not even the meagre efforts of the Franco-German-Belgian euro-progressives that should count as the basis of our expectations about the EU as military power...

(And indeed, when I first posted this, I forgot about another European 'intervention' in Africa: the foiled coup against the government of oil-producing Equatorial Guinea organised by British ex-PM Margaret Thatcher's son Mark, something current British foreign minister Jack Straw knew about two months before the arrests, but did nothing.)

Really, the current crop of visionless conformists must go before Europe should risk significant development in this direction.

(In case you wonder, I am a sceptical liberal interventionist becoming ever more sceptical: it's one thing that I see the one in Iraq as none at all, the ones in Kosovo, Afghanistan as utter failures, and the ones in Bosnia and East Timor as a mess; and that I think at least the latter could have been much better executed - but another thing is whether there are decision-makers, or even if there could be decisionmakers who have the insight, the nerve and the control over subordinates to do it better.)

[*] In case you wonder why I don't see the story as evil colonial power vs. rightful leader trying to regain control of his country, and see Gbago as the main problem, despite significant French industrial interests there - a little background on the Ivory Coast conflict:

Like most West African countries, the Ivory Coast has a North-South Muslim-Christian divide, and ethnic divisions that have cross-border complications. Led by the same party from independence, the country was stable until the middle of the nineties, as exemplified by having a Southern President (Henri Konan Bédié) and a Northern PM (Alassane Dramane Ouattara). But the former started to play on divisions to push out power rivals. In December 1999, there was a military coup by general Robert Gueï, a Southerner, who promised new elections. He broke his promise to not enter the race himself. His most popular opponent was Ouattara, so Gueï also attempted to capitalise on divisions, all of them, barring Ouattara from the contest because he was allegedly born in a neighbouring country. (He in fact held a Burkina Faso passport when he was dissident some years earlier.) Also disqualified was Emile Bombet, candidate of the pre-coup ruling party, and a dozen other candidates, including all from the North - but Laurent Gbago, Southern candidate of the third largest party, and three more also-runs remained on the ballot. This led to widespread boycotts of the October 2000 Presidential elections. And here is the root of the current problems: Gueï lost these sham elections to Gbago.

When Gueï saw he is losing, he halted the count by sending the military against vote-counting officials, and declared himself winner. But Gbago's followers staged a successful revolution - and Gbago, then with the foolish support of the French government, declared himself President - only to have the followers of the barred candidates against him. Subsequently, Gbago used the same divisive tactics Gueï did (whom he gave immunity in return for Gueï's appeal to the Army to accept Gbago), also barring Ouattara and others again in Parliamentary elections December 2000 - January 2001. They lasted so long because of repeats, which failed to 'ride out' the almost total Northern boycotts (while boycotts by other parties meant low turnout in the South too). Conflict ensued, breaking into a civil war in September 2002 after a mutiny and failed coup, ended by French/UN intervention (Gbago was poised to lose militarily at this time) and French-brokered peace agreement in January 2003. The peace agreement prescribed a unified transitional government, UNOCI deployed in the summer of 2003 and with new elections timetabled for 2005. But Gbago didn't rest, for example after dispersing a peaceful street rally of Ouattara's followers in March 2004, police and militias staged night raids on organisers - killing about 120, leading to a four-month boycott of the nominally joint transitional government by the Northern rebels, ended at EU pressure.


At 4:03 PM, Blogger josh narins said...

To the evangelical community, to whom Sudan means oil, which was the blood of Jesus, our actions in Sudan will be insufficient until those bad Arabs go. I basically heard it again Sudan again last night on a Christian run station, which had no other international news. Sunday School Teacher of the year was announced, for example.

Luckily for Sudan, in addition to a literacy rate below 30%, they are also dominated by Afro-Asiatic(Arabic), Niger-Kordofanian(the languages of most of sub-Saharan Africa), and Nilo-Saharan, with over 100 different languages spoken.

Am I an isolationist? Only relative to the two ruling parties.

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