Feb 17, 2003
The French government deployed 2,500 elite troops in the Ivory Coast. Equipped with helicopters, light tanks and cannon, they imposed a cease fire on the insurgents, cutting the country in two. In this way they limited the progression of the insurgents in the north and west. They permitted President Gbagbo to safeguard a fragment of power and territory in the south and in the economic capital Abidjan.
The French government justified this intervention with the usual pretext: they were protecting 20,000 French and foreign nationals. If that had been true, France would have brought them out of Ivory Coast within three weeks, as other countries did. Yet no evacuation is on the agenda. The numerous French troops have another mission: to preserve the interests of French corporations in the Ivory Coast. These interests are diverse and very important.
French companies dominate the entire Ivory Coast economy, and all management and supervisory positions are occupied by French people. The building and public works sector is dominated by the French companies Bouygues and Colas. The French oil company TotalFinaElf owns 25% of the Ivory Coast refining company. A French fruit company controls 50% of the banana market. Insurance is under the thumb of the big French company AXA and big retailing is controlled by Pinalut. In addition Bouygues owns the electric company Ciprel, the Ivory Coast electric company and the water company. France Telecom dominates Ivory Coast Telecom and the Ivory Coast cellular company. Bolloré, a rich French investor, has helped himself to transportation, cotton production, and rubber. Air France owns 51% of the regional company Ivorian Air.... And this list is far from complete.
French troops have already intervened two times against the rebels in the west. Early in January there were fights between the rebels and French troops on the edge of the city of Duékoué. The result: almost 30 dead among the rebels and nine lightly wounded among the French soldiers. When Gbagbo's henchmen killed, raped, and organized violent pogroms of ethnic groups in the north, the French soldiers did nothing. They left the way free for the "loyalist" troops of President Gbagbo instead to send combat helicopters against the rebel west, massacring several dozen civilians.
French imperialism may not be as large and powerful as U.S. imperialism, but it is just as violent and mean in its own sphere.