The limits of French intervention in Africa: a study in applied neo-colonialism
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INTRODUCTION: The scope of this paper is both wider and narrower than might be suggested by its title. It does not propose to offer a full analysis of French neocolonialism, but neither will it be limited to a mere inventory of overt French military actions of the type recently performed in Chad, Shaba or the Central African Republic. Part of the ambiguity that the title of the paper may occasion lies in the use of the term "intervention," which will be used to designate a wide-ranging sequence of policy actions leading, whether deliberately or not, to the crystallization of France's current posture in Africa.* In its broadest sense, "intervention" can, and probably should, include every form of concerted action (whether direct or indirect, overt or covert) by one international actor on another for the purpose of altering, in a manner favorable to the intervenor, the normal processes of operation in the targeted society. In this perspective, it would be legitimate to claim that intervention, or intrusion, by France or by other external powers in the affairs of Africa begins almost from the moment when they first established contact with African societies. The setting up of the slave trade itself was not intrinsically perceived as interventionist, inasmuch as slaves were at that time regarded by both sides as a legitimate trade commodity, but the supply of firearms to native intermediaries who were expected to use their newlyacquired technological superiority to pillage the hinterland in the forcible procurement of slaves, or the exploitation of rivalries between indigenous trading states were all forms of "intervention." Similarly, the imposition of direct colonial rule and the attendant (and forcible) introduction of new modes of production in African societies were clearly interventionist, as was the later development of a colonial apparatus, with its mobilizational and surplus-extracting effects.[TRUNCATED]
African Studies Center Working Paper No. 54
RightsCopyright © 1982, by the author.