Ireland's Imperial Adventure in Chad


Most people will be aware that Irish troops are being sent to Africa as part of an EU 'peace-keeping' mission to Chad and Central African Republic (CAR), but many will be relatively unaware of the background to the conflict and the reasons for the mission. Chad and Central African Republic are both resource rich (oil, gold and uranium in Chad, gold, diamonds and uranium in CAR) but economically underdeveloped former colonies of France.Despite 'decolonisation' in the 1960s France has maintained an extremely active role in these countries, installing and deposing tyrants whenever they deem appropriate. For example, France backed CAR's deranged dictator Bokassa until he became too mad to handle whereupon they helped replace him with current favourite Bozize. In Chad, the French backed president Idriss Deby has re-written the constitution in order to hold onto power indefinitely while banning freedom of speech for the opposition and arresting political opponents; in both countries French troops are fighting on behalf of the government regimes.

The conflict in both countries is highly complex, with military opposition to the French backed regime coming both internally (in Chad, one rebel army is led by a former government minister) and also from across their borders with Sudan. The French ruling class are intervening in order to protect their interests in the area; they make good money by selling weapons and other goods to these countries (French products make up 15% and 18% of total imports for CAR and Chad respectively), but crucially they allow access to valuable strategic resources, particularly uranium which the French are dependent on as an energy source. They aren’t willing to take the chance of new regimes emerging which will challenge their cosy relationship with these countries.

But why is the Irish state getting involved? After all, the French have been quite happy to use their own military to fight wars in these countries in the past, so what’s different now? The answer is probably more to do with French politics than with our own. Since being elected, French president Sarkozy has pledged to end the longstanding neo-colonial relationship between France and its former possessions in Africa.

For him, sending troops under an EU flag rather than a French one allows him to pretend to honour this commitment while also giving the intervention a thin veneer of respectability. At the same time, the French elite are keen for the EU to start taking a more aggressive role in world politics; the Lisbon Treaty represents a further step in this road, obliging all EU states to bump up their military spending while committing them to a common defence policy.

Thus, this conflict is a useful test case for the French ruling class to push the military aspect of the EU and get other EU states to row in behind. Such wars are likely to become more and more common in the future. According to an EU policy document*
, as Europe becomes dependent on outside sources for 90% of its energy needs, EU states will have to make military interventions to sustain supply far outside of European borders.

Although this war will benefit European capitalists, it will be fought by the European working class: Polish, French, Irish and Italians will risk their lives in Central Africa for the sake of Brussels fatcats. Irish soldiers can refuse to serve for this mission, and the rest of us should support them in this.

From Workers Solidarity 102 the issue for March & April 2008



PDF of the Ulster edition of Workers Solidarity 102

PDF of the southern edition of Workers Solidarity 102