AFRICANGLOBE – Is it not ironic that France is today being pitied after falling victim to terror attacks whose masterminds could as well belong to countries which are being destroyed by French guns?
There is a story that has received scant attention but which duly and drastically would have, if circumstances were a little different.
It is the story of a French plane carrying firearms that crash-landed in Masvingo, Zimbabwe recently.
Save for a brief report from one newspaper, the incident went largely unnoticed.
There could be various reasons for this.
First, because the incident happened in Masvingo, some 300km from Harare, away from the glare of the media — much of it — and there were very limited details.
Secondly, because at the moment, there is so much happening globally — at least as the big news media are wont to show us — so much so that a potentially incendiary incident involving a super power’s aircraft carrying weapons getting grounded “in Africa” does not attract as much as a raised eyebrow.
Thirdly, and connected to this is the fact that it was France involved, France being a current recipient of a surfeit of sympathy after recent bombings in its capital, Paris.
Imagine if it were Russia whose plane had been grounded with such highly sensitive cargo?
Or, worse still, China?
We are sure that definitely would have made big news.
In the absence of the same, though, we seek to submit that this incident smells and smells a lot.
It smells of murder.
The first obvious thing we have to state is that France is so big in the business of supplying weapons to governments, most of them in West Africa, and rebels.
In fact, so big has the business of selling arms become that it has become a saviour of France’s struggling economy.
Needless to point out this salvation has come, and it is coming, at the expense of mainly African lives as well as massive instability in the Middle East where the biggest markets are the repressive and murderous regimes in Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
Ordinarily, France should be condemned for fuelling wars and human rights abuses, but then, who can be trusted to do so when the supposed policemen of the world actually fuel wars — including contriving “terror attacks” — to find reason to go to war?
But let’s test these assertions.
In May, France24 had a story titled, “Arms sales becoming France’s new El Dorado, but at what cost?”
French President Francois Hollande was travelling to Saudi Arabia for arms deals.
Said France 24:
France’s booming arms trade has proved one of the few bright spots for the country’s struggling economy. But as President François Hollande heads to Saudi Arabia . . . will there be a moral and strategic cost to the deals he might bring back?
Saudi Arabia is about the worst human rights abusers in the world and is in particular blamed for sponsoring sectarian wars in the Muslim world.
We are told that the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, “where the ultra-conservative Wahhabi form of Islam dominates, is one of the world’s most restrictive and repressive states, where public executions are common practise, women are forbidden from obtaining a passport and blasphemers are punished with whippings.”
Never mind it is one of the best friends of the USA and other western powers.
France has also made deals with Qatar, Egypt and India.
“But some of these deals have raised more than a few eyebrows, with anti-arms trade campaigners critical of France’s willingness to sell weapons to countries with less than stellar human rights records,” notes France24.
The British Guardian newspaper reports that African governments and rebel groups imported 45 percent more weapons in 2014 than in 2005.
These purchases include military hardware such as tanks, aircraft, radar, artillery, rockets, missiles and ships, is measured over five-year periods because weapons orders can fluctuate significantly from year to year.
And guess what? France is among the top seven countries named.
The result is devastating.
According to the Guardian report, “Violence and destruction associated with rising arms imports into Africa costs the continent an estimated $18bn a year as infrastructure is destroyed, businesses are closed and children are kept out of school . . .”
We must have pointed at the onset that we do not believe the story that the plane was destined for Zambia, as reported in the brief news.
A cursory check shows that Zambia does not have any publicised dealings in French arms.
If indeed it does, we have confidence that our peaceful neighbours will put them to good, peaceful use.
However, that does not stop us from imagining that the French arms were for a far much more sinister place like the DRC or Burundi, or in general the unstable and insecure Great Lakes region which is an arms supplier’s paradise.
Take the DRC for example.
Three years ago, Amnesty International beseeched political leaders to halt arms supplies to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where they continued to fuel unlawful killings, rape, looting and abductions.
In a report titled “If You Resist, We’ll Shoot You”, AI highlighted how Congolese security forces and armed groups alike are able to commit serious human rights violations because of the ease of which weapons and ammunition are available.
France was named in that report as one of the five countries supplying arms to the country.
There is reason enough to believe that the situation still obtains to this day where the country is still at war with itself.
Lastly, it has to be pointed out that France has no sense of shame at all.
So depraved is it that even where the most perverted and immoral and warmongering country, the US refuses to sell arms where it feels its morality could be scrutinised, France is ready to shamelessly jump in.
One journal aptly puts it nicely saying: “If the US Won’t Sell You Weapons, France Might Still Hook You Up”.
It tells us that the French state owns shares of major defence companies like Airbus, Thales Group, and the Mistral manufacturer DCNS.
We are also told that President Hollande, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, and French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian routinely visit clients of the French defence industry, that is countries to which they sell arms.
It is said at home, the French are celebrating their booming business and “arms sales so far for 2015 have created around 30 000 jobs in France”.
These are the arms that are killing thousands, if not millions of people.
Millions more are displaced.
Countries are destroyed and Africa is every year losing US$18 billion due to wars that countries such as France are sponsoring.
Is it not ironic that France is today being pitied after falling victim to terror attacks whose masterminds could as well belong to countries which are being destroyed by French guns?
You begin to think that we should not have allowed that French plane and its dirty cargo to leave.
Besides, doesn’t it remind one of what Adam Roberts beautifully described as the Wonga Coup?