Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, speaks on panel along with Nellie Hester Bailey of the Harlem Tenants Council and Ana Edwards of the Virginia Defenders at the Albany Peace Conference held July 23-25, 2010., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
France, UN Launch Military Attacks in Ivory Coast to Force Regime-Change
Disputed elections have prompted military action by imperialist forces
By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
For the second time in two weeks, the Conservative French government of Nicolas Sarkozy has launched military operations aimed at overthrowing African states. The latest military assault was launched against the Ivory Coast government of President Laurent Gbagbo who has rejected the results of a disputed run-off election held last November as well as calls from the West and the regional organization ECOWAS for him to step down.
On March 19, France led off with the aerial bombing campaign against the North African state of Libya which is designed to topple the government of Muammar Gaddafi. Both military actions have been based on United Nations Security Council Resolutions ostensibly designed to protect civilians and carry out humanitarian efforts.
In the capital of Abidjan, the United Nations so-called peacekeeping forces in Ivory Coast have conducted air strikes against military units still loyal to President Gbagbo in addition to attacking the presidential palace. The dispute over the elections has prompted calls from various western countries and their allies within the region for the conflict to be settled by granting the presidency to opposition leader Alassane Ouattara, who is backed by a militia that is armed and trained militarily by France.
According to an eyewitness account of the attacks by France and the UN on April 4, at least four missiles were fired by helicopters at areas purportedly controlled by Gbagbo supporters. Hamadou Toure, who is the UN spokesman for Ivory Coast, said that “We are engaged in neutralizing the heavy weapons that Mr. Gbagbo’s special forces have been using for the last few months against civilians and our forces.” (Telegraph.co.uk, April 4)
Toure went on to say that “Despite all our warnings and alerts, they kept using these heavy weapons against us. What we are doing is in line with our mandate and in line with resolution 1975 adopted last week. Our mandate is to protect innocent lives and that is what we are doing.”
France Has Military Forces Stationed in Ivory Coast
Reports indicate that France already has a military force of 1,650 troops in Ivory Coast. A news report over the BBC said that French forces shelled the presidential palace on April 1.
Although the French forces are a part of the UN peacekeeping mission to the country, it was announced that Paris recently bolstered its troops by another 450 soldiers. French military forces reportedly took control of the airport outside Abidjan on the evening of April 2.
The United Nations and French forces are bolstered by the military units controlled by Alassane Ouattara, who says that he has 9,000 fighters under his command. The commanding officer of the forces loyal to Ouattara said on April 4 that “We know when it starts it could take 48 hours to properly clean (the city).” (Associated Press, Reuters, April 4)
France Continues Military Involvement in Former Colonies and Other States
This is by no means the first time that France has intervened in the internal affairs of its former colonies in Africa. In Gabon during 2009 after unrest had struck the oil-rich pro-western state, France sent its military units into the streets under the guise of protecting the lives of its nationals living and working inside the country.
The French military maintains permanent bases in various parts of West Africa and in the Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti. In Djibouti, the French share a military outpost with the U.S. which has its Africa Command (AFRICOM) forward operating center inside that country.
France and the U.S. collaborated in initiating the current war against Libya where over a thousand bombing missions were carried out within a period of two weeks. In Ivory Coast, the two governments of Obama and Sarkozy have the same political positions on the situation inside the country and are demanding the removal of Laurent Gbagbo.
Although France and the United Nations have a strong presence in Ivory Coast, a massacre of hundreds of civilians between March 28-30 in the western cocoa producing town of Duekoue has drawn international attention to the ongoing conflict. The International Committee of the Red Cross reported on April 1 that “800 people had been shot to death” in the town. However, the United Nations said that the death toll was 330 as of April 1. (cnn.com, April 4)
The deputy human rights director Guillaume Ngefa said that the massacre occurred during an offensive led by the military forces of the French and UN supported Ouattara. Nonetheless, the Ouattara forces said that “it firmly rejects such accusations and denies any involvement by the Republican Forces of Cote d’Ivoire in possible abuses.” (cnn.com, April 4)
Ivory Coast, a nation of over 20 million people, is the world’s largest producer of cocoa. After independence from France in 1960, the dominant political forces maintained close relations with Paris for nearly four decades.
Laurent Gbagbo, the incumbent president, has rejected French and United Nations involvement in the current dispute over the results of the national elections. Gbagbo has accused France of imperialist ambitions to control its former colony and has requested the establishment of a coalition government with his rival Alassane Ouattara.