Central African Republic, CAR, was a French colony which gained ‘independence’ in 1960. In reality CAR become a neo-colony of French imperialism- in other words, the French capitalists remained in control but now used an indigenous government as its frontman. Whenever local leaders began to lose control over the masses, French imperialism used a section of the military to stage a coup so that they still remain in control while the new military figurehead made some promises to the masses.
As we have been saying over and over again, the current revolt by the masses is on a world scale, it is not an ‘Arab Spring’ as some bourgeois commentators claim. Every capitalist regime is under attack. While mass revolts were underway in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and elsewhere, a new trend has been developing in parts of Francafrique (parts of Africa still under French imperialist domination):
- To pre-empt the masses from overthrowing regimes in Francafrique, French imperialism has led the military toppling of regimes so that they remain in control, while at the same time terrorising the masses into submission;
- These military coups have been carried out where the regimes were threatened but there was not a strong union bureaucracy or similar social agencies to help curb the militancy of the masses;
- US, British, French, German and Japanese imperialism formed a united front against the masses; in other words, through the UN, AU and other imperialist organs, they gave support to the new military juntas to crush the mass revolt;
- Where US imperialism has begun to make inroads into the areas formerly controlled exclusively by French imperialism, the 2 powers have acted together to prevent the masses from overthrowing the regime;
Recently, when there was a stalemate between 2 armed factions of the state in Ivory Coast, French imperialism invaded and ousted the current President Gbagbo and installed newcomer Ouattara. This was done with the blessing of the UN.
In Mali, the Tuareg militias advanced to seize control of the north of the country. Militias supported by US imperialism hijacked the revolt against the regime, diverting it into an ‘Islamist’ objective (in reality, deliberately dividing the masses – see our article on Mali in The Spark). In the south, a military coup was supported by French imperialism, which was followed up by an invasion of French troops to prop up this new regime. The UN recognised the coup govt. A spontaneous revolt against the Mali regime was thus pre-empted by the united front of imperialism against the masses.
How imperialism acts against the masses in Central African Republic
In 2003 Francois Bozize came to power in a military coup in Central African Republic, CAR. Bozize organised ‘elections’ in 2007 and 2011 which he won while conveniently excluding his opposition from running. Reflecting the growing influence of US imperialism in the CAR, Bozize signed agreements with the SA govt in 2007 supposedly for training his military elite. [the SA state reflects competing US and French imperialist interests but also that US imperialism is the dominant imperialism in SA]. Bozize continued the same super-exploitation of the CAR masses as the President before him. Today, out of a survey of 221 capital cities around the world, Bangui, the capital of CAR, comes in at 220, just ahead of Baghdad which is still suffering the effects of being ‘civilised’ by US imperialism for the past 10 years. Most people in CAR die before the age of 60 and the masses suffer on an income just less than $2 per day (R18 per day). This is despite CAR being mineral rich, having so much diamonds that these lie all over the ground; there is much gold, copper and Uranium. The masses have been growing weary of Bozize, who has favoured his own friends and failed to integrate armed factions of his opponents (fearing a coup).
Reading the signs, French imperialism prepared for another coup to pre-empt a mass revolt against Bozize which could have given courage to the masses in the entire region, if not the rest of the continent, even pointing the way to the masses in Europe and elsewhere. Under current world conditions, when every capitalist regime is under threat, imperialism wants to crush revolt everywhere. This is background to the recent events in the CAR.
While Areva (French imperialism) controls the Uranium sector, the diamond and gold sectors are now dominated by North American companies: CAMCO (Central African Mining company is really controlled by Toronto-based Energem Resources) controls 1160 square km of diamond fields; while US company Foy-Johnson controls 79 000 hectares of land with significant gold deposits; Canadian Axmin also has significant mining activity in CAR. Thus both French and US imperialism have significant assets to maintain control over.
Imperialism pushes 3 armed factions into a coalition, called Seleca, and they begin taking over towns from the north, up the diamond town of Bria and stop within a few km of the capital Bangui. At the same time, an armed group backed by US imperialism, called the Lord’s Resistance Army, LRA, also joins forces with the Seleca. US imperialism is aware of this but still withdrew their diplomatic corp from Bangui in December 2012. Publicly, US imperialism has declared that it is hunting the leadership of the LRA, Kony; they know the LRA operates in northern CAR, but they still withdrew. This further confirms what we have been saying for a long time, namely that the LRA is an agency of US imperialism, used in the DRC and in the rest of the region, to terrorise the masses, using rape and mass murder, to clear the land before US mining companies or their front agencies move in to plunder.
Imperialism has a problem: they wanted to overthrow Bozize and replace him with a new puppet, but the SA govt has an agreement to protect the Presidential palace. So how to they achieve their objective? The longer Bozize remains, the greater the threat of a mass revolt against him.
Firstly, the food supply to the Vimbizela camp is cut off by the heads of the SA army itself and for the past few weeks, the SA troops are living on rat packs (rations); secondly, the military heads of the SA troops in Vimbizela base realize that if they are attacked (remember the Seleca are just a few km away from Bangui in December), they do not have enough ammunition to defend themselves. The heads of the SA troops in Bangui request back up ammunition and supplies- this is denied by the Joint Ops command in SA. [Remember the Commander in Chief is President Zuma himself]. Thirdly, the group is splintered into groups of 5 soldiers each which are sent out to protect assets in Bangui of various US companies that have offices in SA. There are only a few protecting the Presidential palace of Bozize.
On Friday night 22nd March, the very CAR troops that the SA army has supposedly been sent to train, open fire on the SA troops and try to storm the Presidential palace. They are beaten back by the SA troops. Later that night, the Seleca and LRA troops attack Bangui. The SA troops are under severe stress (imagine 5 soldiers at a company site fighting off 150 ‘rebels’). Many rebel soldiers are killed and at least 15 SA soldiers perish as well. After some hours of fighting, when the head of SA Vimbizela troops radio to Joint Ops in SA that they are running out of ammunition and are likely to be all killed, the rebels present a white flag. The SA troops withdraw to the nearby airport (controlled by the French army), while the Seleca-LRA take over Bangui and the Presidential palace. On Sunday 24th March, SA troops are flown out and reinforcements are flown in but only after Bozize is deposed and the new coup leader takes up office at the Presidential palace- the SA troops are at the airport, acting as an insurance in case the Seleca-LRA do not manage to curb the masses from attacking the US capitalist interests. Yes, Thuli Zuma, through Worldwide Africa Investments and Sasol have interests in the CAR, yes, Ramaphosa, through Shanduka, has assets in the CAR. Both had assets being protected by SA soldiers; yes most likely some SA soldiers died protecting ANC leaders’ assets, but the main role of the SA troops was to protect assets of US imperialist interests.
All along the French troops have not been attacked, nor have the FACA (CAR army) or the Seleca-LRA attacked any French company or the airport. This shows that the attacks by the CAR army and the Seleca-LRA were supported by French imperialism- a deal was done with them to leave the French capitalist interests intact.
Important lessons and the way forward
1. Imperialism will go to any extent to make sure that their absolute control in the CAR is maintained, even if it means that the lives of some SA soldiers and some unemployed youth co-opted as Seleca-LRA rebels, are sacrificed;
2. A few pennies in bribes (BEE shares in imperialist companies) is enough to make the ANC govt send the SA troops as free private security to US and French companies to continue to plunder Africa;
3. Clause 201 of this supposed ‘best Constitution in the world’ was torn up by the ANC govt as President Zuma failed to inform parliament of the detail and purpose and duration of sending the SA troops to the CAR.
4. The use of SA troops to defend US assets in the CAR is illegal in terms of this Constitution and troops would be in their rights to refuse to be deployed on such ‘missions’. The dangerous precedent is that, in the rest of Africa, when the masses rise up against super-exploitation by imperialists, the SA troops will be sent again and again to shoot down the masses and to protect companies that are starving the continent. SA Security Forces Union, SASFU, called for more troops to be sent to CAR to defend the masses (Cosatu leaders supported this), but the SA troops are not being sent to protect the masses but to protect the very companies that are raping the CAR and will continue to plunder and carry off its wealth. Have the SA troops in CAR since 2007, improved the living and working conditions of the masses there? NO. Here we see the real meaning of BRICS- where imperialism is discredited, the BRICS forces will be sent as news agencies to protect the same imperialism, for the payment of a few pieces of silver.
5. Were the 1000 troops who were brave enough to march, unarmed, to the Union buildings in 2009 right about serious misgivings about the capitalist leadership of the army? Yes. Even though these troops have won their reinstatement in the courts, the heads of the army, under instructions from imperialism, has refused, for the past 4 years to allow them back. Now, we can see why: imperialism wants to keep out soldiers who would question illegal instructions. Clause 199.6 of the Constitution says: ‘ No member of any security service may obey a manifestly illegal order’. Imperialism wants to crush the soldiers unions; they want to scrap this clause because capitalism is under threat and they want an army that is prepared to shoot down any protestor if a capitalist asset is under threat, even if this capitalist asset is based on the most brutal super-exploitation of the working class.
· SA and French troops out of CAR now!
· for mineworker and poor peasant committees in the CAR to form the basis of a workers’ government
· for the expropriation of all imperialist and capitalist assets in the CAR, without compensation to the capitalists, and to be placed under workers’ control
· for the immediate reinstatement of the 1000 soldiers
· Defend the soldier unions
· for the withdrawal of SA troops from all other countries
· for the expulsion of US and French troops from Africa
· No confidence in the heads of the military and the Commander in Chief of the Defence force. Justice for the fallen troops sacrificed by the SA govt for imperialism.
· For a federation of Socialist workers’ states of Africa based on workers and poor peasant committees
· For revolutionary working class parties in Africa as part of a revolutionary International (for us the path to refound the Fourth International).
We call for mass protests at all SA govt institutions- parliament, Union buildings, provincial governments and municipal governments, as well as SA embassies around the world.
Workers International Vanguard Party www.workersinternational.org.za
Email: email@example.com ph 0822020617 ph +27 21 4476777