“The tragedy of Africa is that the African has not fully entered into history….they have never really launched themselves into the future…” — Nicolas Sarkozy, 2007
“The problems Africa face are completely different….they are civilizational…” — Emmanuel Macron, 2017
“[Africa] is the continent of the future, on that point we can’t just leave them alone…” — Emmanuel Macron, 2017
Ireland missed the original scramble for Africa. When Europe’s imperialists were carving up the African continent at the 1884-85 Berlin Conference, Ireland was still a colony of Britain. Ireland had no voice. Today is different. Dublin has an opinion. It has its own parliament and can project its own vision upon Africa. And what’s that? It’s no different from that of Europe’s imperialists. As Europe scrambles for Africa again – Ireland wants a piece of the action.
Map: The colonial subdivision of Africa, Berlin Conference 1984-85 (right)
On June 20, the Irish parliament voted overwhelmingly in favor (73-39) of sending Ireland’s special forces into West Africa. This means that Dublin’s attack dogs will be fighting in the Sahara alongside those of – among others – Berlin. And who will the white Irish be pointing their guns at? Black Africans. Indeed, Dublin’s targets will be the de rigueur targets of contemporary western imperialism: Muslims.
Ireland’s cover story is the United Nations. But the real story is white supremacy. Dublin is hiding behind the UN mission named MINUSMA (Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali). However MINUSMA is based on the French army and its 2013 intervention in Mali. Which itself is based on French aggression (2011) in Libya and Ivory Coast. In fact, the French military spearheads current white ambition throughout Francophone Africa or, as it is alternatively called, Françafrique.
The French connection is openly acknowledged and questioned in Dublin. The Irish Times writes that “France….specifically appealed to European governments this week to send special forces to Mali.” And the political opposition notes that – to begin with – “it was a French colonial intervention”. It also warns that Ireland “must not facilitate French interests in the area”. The Irish Prime Minister, however, sticks with the UN cover story: “[Ireland’s special forces are] a big part of ….our commitment to the UN.”
The UN though justifies nothing. Since the Korean War (1950-53) the UN has been a convenient fig leaf for western imperialism. The UN General Assembly and UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) may have been, over the years, a thorn in the side of the West but overall the UN has been in the pocket of the West. And in the 21st century France, perhaps more than any other western nation, has been covering its geopolitical dementia with the UN cover story.
From the crudest of regime changes in Haiti (2004) to the Libyan genocide (2011) and beyond to Operation Burkhane (2014-present), the UN has been legitimizing French terror wherever it strikes. In fact, the last mentioned action encapsulates France’s view of the world and, ipso facto, that of the UN too. And its packed with white supremacism.
According to the prevailing western / French logic: the Sahel / Sahara is a “lawless” place in which “extremists” predominate. The word “Islamists” captures for western journalists, commentators and official spokesmen the threat of this “situation”. However, the fact that everyone in this region is Islamic automatically means that the whole population of this vast area of Africa is somehow suspicious. And therefore must be policed.
Operation Burkhane is the conclusion of this western group think. Its a story as old as modern times: the non European is incapable of looking after himself, therefore the European must do it for him. After entering Mali in 2013 (Operation Serval) and solving nothing, the French decided to intervene in all of Mali’s neighbors in 2014 (Operation Burkhane). In other words, the area made up of Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad and Mauritania was declared to be one enormous, and permanent, hunting ground for thousands of French soldiers.
Its more appropriate, however, to say that French capitalism is doing the hunting. After losing out to German capital, in the battle for Europe, French capital has “rediscovered” Africa. In truth, of course, France never really disengaged from Françafrique. The French Treasury, for one, refused to let go of Africa: it has been managing for decades the currencies of 14 African states (the CFA Franc). And French companies have been exploiting this fact by lodging themselves into the economic fabric of western and central Africa – so much so, that French business in Africa has become a byword for corruption. Nonetheless, with Europe firmly in the hands of Germany – France, in order to boost whatever competitive advantage it has left, is now playing the last dirty trick up its sleeve: Françafrique.
France though is not the only outsider in Africa. American soldiers are all over the place. And so too are Chinese workers. US militarism (AFRICOM) has been imposing itself upon the continent since 2007. However the USA has been pushing France aside in Africa since 1994: the story behind the Rwandan genocide is the American takeover of a French asset – Rwanda. And over the same period, Chinese economics within Africa has been trumping French corruption nonstop.
France needed to act, if it wanted to stay in the race for African resources and if it wanted to prevent itself – to quote Jacques Chirac – from “[sliding] down into the rank of a third [world] power”.
So France went to war in Africa. It went to war in Africa with the backing of the UN. And with the support of white men everywhere. The British, the Germans, the European Union, NATO and NATO’s partners from all around the world, support France’s latest push into Africa. And this includes France’s competitor in Africa – the USA. Why? Because the white man is, in fact, sliding down into the rank of a third rate power!
Ireland is an example of this western slide into oblivion and the knee jerk imperialism / racism it stimulates. Around the year 2000: Ireland was a neoliberal poster boy. It obeyed the Washington Consensus and reaped the short term profits. In the long term, however, it exposed itself to financial instability. And that duly arrived in 2008. Now, around the year 2020, Ireland obeys the war agenda of its creditors – creditors, who in fact, lack any credibility whatsoever: for example, France.
Refusing to backtrack from failed neoliberal policies, Ireland is digging its own moral grave. It does so in order to conform to a white Eurocentric fantasy called the European Union. Drowning in a sea of debt – only Japan and the USA have a per capita national debt higher than Ireland’s – Dublin feels it has no choice but to follow the EU down the path of war. By joining in the fallacious effort to make Europe great again, the Irish state tragically finds itself supporting the same kind of imperialism / racism which repressed the Irish for centuries.
You’d think the Irish state would know better. But the irrationalism of financial capitalism is merciless. And a lot of the finance capital that failed in Ireland was French. Therefore where French capital goes in order to recover its losses – so does Irish capital. And today that means Africa.
The irony is that the Europeans call the Africans “lawless” and “extremists”. In truth, of course, its the other way around. Hiding behind liberal platitudes, a broken European capitalism is entering Africa today with extreme force. After ripping apart the Middle East, its special forces are now in the Sahara / Sahel. At a loss to stop the internal rot, Europe is losing itself in wars and the accompanying ideologies of corruption and hate. In short: its a case of Europe über alles. Or if you’re Irish – France über alles.
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Aidan O’Brien is a hospital worker in Dublin, Ireland.