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The Last Gasp Of Françafrique

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This makes it impossible for African members to regulate their own monetary policies. The most inefficient and wasteful countries are able to use the foreign reserves of the more prudent countries without any meaningful intervention by the wealthier and more successful countries. Convertibility of the CFA franc into French francs through authorised intermediaries is supported by provision for central-bank overdrafts on these accounts.   In short, at least 80% of the financial reserves of these African countries are held in the French Treasury under its control.   This has been an aggregation of currency reserves since 1961; that is over fifty years of accumulation without recourse by the African states to their capital.

The African states are now querying how it might be possible to recover their tens of billions of dollars from the French Treasury. These funds were invested on the French Bourse in the name of the Treasury, not in the name of the African states. This French Treasury is in a desperate shape. The country is in deep financial troubles.   The official debt to GDP ratio of the French government is around 86%, which is higher than in Spain and Britain, if not yet at Italian or Greek levels. That is the "official" debt. France also has liabilities of hundreds of billions of euros via the EU, not counted by the official statistics. Add those in, and you get to a debt/GDP level of more like 145%. Add in the present cost of future pension liabilities, and you'll be way over the 200% mark. Add in the cost of bailing out France's own creaking banks, in the event of meltdown elsewhere in Europe, and you'll be getting to figures that the country cannot possibly pay. If the French cannot pay its own debts it certainly is not ready to release the already hypothecated African reserves back to the Africans.

Financial reality has never been France's long suit. In its precipitate attack on Libya it used up its annual military budget in the first seven weeks of the campaign. It dug into the African reserves it was holding to pay for the unprecedented attack on Gbagbo in the Ivory Coast which killed thousands of innocent civilians in Abidjan and provoked the murder of others across the country. During the French and UN rampage across the Ivory Coast the citizens bemoaned the fact that the French used African money to buy the bullets that killed them. Now the French are in the military conflict in Mali and are soon to be engaged in the Central African Republic.

The unilateral activities of the French in Africa in an effort to maintain its relevance and a free run for French business have been an unmitigated disaster.   French policy has created the very problem the rest of the world was seeking to avoid. In its attack on Kaddafi in Libya (which the rest of NATO ended up paying for)   it   succeeded in creating   a radical Islamist state in Libya, whose al-Qaida colleagues have taken Libyan equipment and training and spread their wings to the rest of West Africa; notably Mali.   Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is closely allied to the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) whom France intervened on behalf of during NATO's 2011 proxy-invasion of Libya - providing weapons, training, Special Forces and even aircraft to support them in the overthrow of Libya's government.

Many nations, especially Algeria which on the main conflict route, have been very concerned that the unrest and disorder in Libya has led to the development of a major safe haven and sanctuary there for al-Qaeda and other extremist jihadis;   a safe haven to train and re-equip for jihadi activity in Egypt and, especially, Syria.

The problem is that France cannot sustain any military activity on a long-term basis. Its military budget has been stretched to breaking point by the costs of abandoning Afghanistan. It is relying on the UN to pay for the continuing intervention. Hollande, who has antagonised the wealthy French and the business community at home, has little chance of raising money for the war effort in Africa. He is locked in battle with the Sarkozy-UMP Africa Cell in the President's office which operates without consulting him. The DGSE barely consult him and ignore him in African matters. The French Masons, long a source of support for their Africans, are the very target of Hollande's attempt to raise taxes and increase fiscal responsibilities among the French multinational business community. The fundamental françafrique coalition has shattered.

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The final irony in the planning is that the French expect that the nations of ECOWAS (the West African Community) will send thousands of soldiers to take up the battle in lieu of the French who want to pull out quickly. They will pledge to send them but who will pay for them? The African states don't have the money to pay for such an endeavour, partially because the French Treasury has "disappeared' their reserves. The UN doesn't have the funds and asking the EU and NATO for funds is a no hope request. The US has planes, drones and transport available and in use but has told all who ask that it is not willing to send troops or to pay for others. The US is worried about deep defence cuts on its own and possible sequestration. It isn't likely to use the remaining funds to assist a campaign in Mali (or the CAR).

So the likely outcome is a degeneration of the conflict that will entrench the AQIM in the region and strengthen the hands of the jihadists in addition to threatening Algeria. This seems to be the last gasp of françafrique in Africa. The French will find it ever harder to keep their traditional businesses in the Ivory Coast, Guinea, Mali, CAR and Mauretania going. Unlike almost all the other countries involved there are thousands of French nationals in these countries right now -- all of whom are targets and possible hostages. This is not a good time to be French in Africa.

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Dr. Gary K. Busch has had a varied career-as an international trades unionist, an academic, a businessman and a political intelligence consultant. He was a professor and Head of Department at the University of Hawaii and has been a visiting (more...)

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France provoked the rise of armed and trained jiha... by Gary Busch on Tuesday, Jan 15, 2013 at 8:40:48 AM