"The French army is doing everything it takes to hide civilian casualties, this is why we do not know the exact number of civilian casualties caused by the military operations by France," Raphael Granvaud told Anadolu Agency in 2018. Granvaud wrote the book 'Que fait l'armée française en Afrique?' meaning 'What is the French army doing in Africa?'. He is convinced that the French army's involvement in Africa has "clearly led to civilian casualties". It is not too surprising considering members of the French army were accused of sexually abusing young boys in the Central African Republic, in 2014 at a camp for displaced people. The matter was dismissed by a French magistrate for lack of sufficient evidence but this procedural dismissal did not absolve the soldiers. 13 French soldiers were also accused of tying up three girls and filming them as they were forced to have sexual relations with dogs. It was a stark reminder that the French military would never change. In 1994, French troops in Operation Turquoise in Rwanda were accused of exchanging food rations for sex with Tutsi girls. The rot has a long, sickening history.
Christopher Griffon, in his paper, “French Military Interventions in Africa” presented at the 48th Annual Meeting of the International Studies Association reckons between 1960 and 2005, France launched 46 military operations in its former colonies. Bruno Charbonneau in France and the New Imperialism: Security Policy in Sub-Saharan Africa puts the number of interventions from 1945 to 2005 at an astronomical 126. This would effectively put the current toll at over 130 interventions since 1945. Some of the operations the French have been involved in include Operation Noroit (Rwanda 1990–1993), Operation Licorne (Côte d’Ivoire 2002), Operation Artemis (the Democratic Republic of the Congo [DRC] 2003) Operation EUFOR-Tchad (Chad 2007–2008), Operation Atalante (Djibouti 2008), and Operation Harmattan (Libya 2011).
In Operation Serval in Mali, France wrapped up its operations by organizing an election, leaving the country with relative peace. However, Operation Sangaris in the Central African Republic has been described as "more daring in its brazen unilateralism, less fortunate in its results". The French army moved in and disarmed one group of fighters (ex-Seleka) thus leaving them at the mercy of the anti-Balaka. The violence that broke out was unprecedented. In one particular week, 600 people were killed. This was French military policy unraveling! The conflict itself is of French design with the European country's shameless political and military meddling going as far back as the David Dacko coup in 1979. An equally epic failure is Libya where the French intervention (backed by Western friends) left the country a pale shadow of what it was before. In Rwanda, France also had a controversial role as its military support for the Hutu regime is said to have played a part in causing the genocide. These are only some of the many debacles of French military intervention in Africa.
It has been said that France is overstretching its military as it has been downscaling its size over the years. It becomes a real mystery why overstretched France simply cannot let Africa go. France is clearly still stuck in an anachronistic consolidation of colonial luster. Douglas Yates in The Palgrave Handbook of Peacekeeping in Africa says, "for the client states in the Gulf of Guinea, they have their security protected by a France that is still willing to intervene militarily to preserve grandeur and its African sphere of influence"
Header Image: Al Jazeera