From the BBC’s West Africa analyst, Paul Melly, today:
Central African Republic crisis: Another French intervention?
A fresh crisis in Africa – and once again French troops are on their way. This time around 1,000 extra soldiers are heading to the Central African Republic (CAR) to restore order after a rebel takeover. They will supplement the 400 odd French troops already on the ground in the country.
So what’s new? Is this just a case of Paris once again acting as gendarme in a former sub-Saharan colony?
Are we back to the days when the famously influential Jacques Foccart acted as Africa adviser in the Elysee Palace and French paratroops made and unmade governments, protecting allies – some of them deeply unsavoury – and displacing supposed troublemakers?
But the temptation to reach for old history should be resisted. We are not in the 1970s. Africa has changed. And so has France.
This piece is a very solid and detailed look at the major shift in Africa policy undertaken by the Socialists during the 1990s and then again since 2012. Nicolas Sarkozy, a conservative from the UMP, also made contributions in the same direction — but his less diplomatic approach toward interventions angered many African leaders, whereas François Hollande works closely with regional leaders to get their approval prior to going into Mali, earlier this year.
Sarkozy’s biggest achievement, however, was crucial: ending France’s official support for “incumbent regimes” in Africa friendly toward France. Now, bad is bad and no dictators are automatically safe.