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How French imperialism propped up slain ruler in Chad

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Dictator Idriss Deby, killed last week, helped France cling on to its colonial legacy in Africa, writes Charlie Kimber
Issue 2752
Dictator Idriss Deby of Chad
Dictator Idriss Deby of Chad (Pic: Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office)

Imperialism suffered a heavy blow last week when Idriss Deby, the dictator of Chad in Africa, died. He was ­reportedly shot while leading the army against members of the Fact opposition movement.

There are alternative suggestions that he was eliminated by internal opponents.

Deby had ruled Chad for 30 years, acting as one of the most loyal servants of French ­imperialism. France kept him in office in return.

In 2019 2,000 French troops helped defeat a rebel movement.

Emmanuel Macron wages war at home and abroad
Emmanuel Macron wages war at home and abroad
  Read More

And in 2008 French planes and soldiers halted rebels that had almost reached the presidential palace.

French politicians, from President Emmanuel Macron to fascist Marine Le Pen, rushed to express their deep regret at Deby’s demise and to champion his memory.

There were no complaints when, after Deby’s death, the military threw away all the constitutional rules and installed his son in power.

France, like other imperial powers, has always been determined to influence and direct its former colonies.


Saturated with racism and colonial attitudes, it has repeatedly intervened alongside dictators and thugs across Africa to maintain its control and plunder natural resources.

French companies operating in the region—such as oil giant Total, bank BNP Paribas and telecom provider Orange—receive unstinting support from the French state.

Any government that seeks to restrict its operations is likely to be bullied into reversing its policy—or be removed. Chad is crucial to the whole operation.

Its capital N’Djamena is the central command hub for the West Africa region. Around 1,000 French troops are based there along with Mirage 2000 fighter jets.

But France, a declining and stretched power, struggles to keep its grip on the region.

The assault on Libya in 2011 by the Nato military alliance tore apart large areas of north and central Africa. Armed groups grabbed weaponry previously used by the Libyan regime or supplied by the external powers seeking to grab control in Libya.

There are now over 5,000 French troops across central Africa and the Sahara area.

A report in the Le Monde ­newspaper says that last year France and its partners killed more civilians than the groups they are supposed to be fighting.


But that just creates resentment and resistance.

When France sent its forces into Mali, a former French colony, their mission was supposed to last only a few weeks. That was more than seven years ago.

And recently there have been mass revolts that give hope of real change.

In March a huge movement of young people in Senegal, a former French colony, rose against president Macky Sall.

They targeted French ­supermarkets Carrefour and Auchan as well as Total petrol stations. It took weeks for the government to regain control.

Demonstrators chanted, “France out of Senegal.” All the imperialists must go and workers have to fight local rulers and their backers.

France ‘bears responsibility’ for the genocide in Rwanda, says new report

Rwanda genocide memorial to remember the 800,000 people who were killed
Rwanda genocide memorial to remember the 800,000 people who were killed (Pic: configmanager/Flickr)

Rivalries between the West and China have led to more of the truth being admitted about genocide in the central African country of Rwanda.

Between April and July 1994, some 800,000 people were slaughtered, mainly from the Tutsi minority group.

It’s commonly said that the murders are the perfect example of a situation where the major powers should have launched “humanitarian” military intervention.

But two reports have underlined that there was too much imperialist intervention and it laid the basis for the killings.

The Rwandan government’s analysis, released last week, said, “The French government bears significant responsibility for enabling a foreseeable genocide.”

To bolster imperialist influence, the then French president Francois Mitterrand supported the Hutu-led government that orchestrated the killings.

Another report, released last month, said France was obsessed by fears of losing influence in Africa. It remained close to the “racist, corrupt and violent regime” that carried out the massacres and bore “serious and overwhelming” responsibility for what happened.

What’s remarkable is that this report was commissioned by French President Emmanuel Macron. Successive French presidents have tried to obscure French culpability.

And even now the Macron commission cleared France of complicity in the actual genocide.

Genocide in Rwanda—25 years on
Genocide in Rwanda—25 years on
  Read More

Yet it is well documented that French soldiers and government officials drove around Rwanda with enormous French flags displayed on their vehicles.

On seeing them, Tutsis would come out of hiding only to be killed by Hutu militias while the French did nothing.

And the French allowed the genocidal forces to flee into the Democratic Republic of Congo. Once entrenched they played a central role in regional wars that claimed millions of lives.

The reason for this French partial admission of the truth is to seek a new accord with the brutally repressive regime of Paul Kagame.

Kagame had ruled Rwanda for 27 years, ruthlessly suppressing opposition. That doesn’t bother his Western backers.

Rwanda has a powerful ­state-directed industry and acts as a centre for the export of minerals and gemstones.

Its army also can act as the cop of the region. For a long time Kagame, while repulsing France, was close to Britain and the United States.

But more recently it has moved heavily towards China, which has invested to extend its influence in Africa. The Rwandan army even has a brigade that takes orders in Chinese.

This inter-imperialist rivalry has forced the French to abandon denial of the past and seek to creep back into Rwanda.

Whoever wins out, the ordinary people of Rwanda have never had a look in as around them great powers compete for Kagame’s favour.

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