In 1998, François-Xavier Verschave, a French journalist, borrowed the neologism Françafrique from Felix Houphouët-Boigny, the former Ivorian president. This term, still used today, was used by Verschave to designate the official and unofficial links between France and its former African colonies. Obviously, this is a rather vague umbrella term encompassing various domains such as politics and economics but also personal relationship between African leaders and their French counterparts.
Libya is not a former French colony and should not therefore be included within this shadowy Françafrique. Or should it? On 10th March 2011, Nicolas Sarkozy recognised the National Libyan Council as the sole “legitimate representative of the Libyan people.” On 17th March 2011, France was behind the United Nations resolution which condemned “the gross and systematic violation of human rights, including arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, torture and summary executions” (see full text of the resolution here) Two days later, the French jet fighters were the first ones to strike Muammar Gaddafi’s forces “for the protection of civilians.” Of course, France was not on its own as the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada are also, up to this day, militarily involved in Libya.
Until now, this military intervention has been perceived as spontaneous. However, is it really? On 23rd March 2010, Libero, an Italian newspaper revealed that French secret services have been preparing the demise of Gaddafi since… October 2010 (see extract of the article here). If this is true, this could change our whole understanding of the so-called humanitarian crisis in Libya.
This is not the first time that a country adopts different stances on foreign affairs. It is not as if France had never bombed Ivory Coast or Afghanistan after promoting peace in Irak. Our political and historical understanding of the Libyan war should focus more on the events which led to the present situation. Conspiracy theory will not be very useful. Another question might be asked. In December 2007, Sarkozy was shaking hands with Gaddafi in Paris. In December 2010, Sarkozy was planning Gaddafi’s demise. How can we explain this volte-face?