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French Military Interventions in Africa: Realism vs. Ideology in French Defense Policy and Grand Strategy
Unformatted Document Text:  Introduction 1 In September and October 2002, France significantly augmented its military garrison in Côte d’Ivoire after elements of the Ivoirian Army mutinied in Abidjan. As the situation in the country swiftly deteriorated toward civil war between rebels in the north and Laurent Gbagbo’s government in Yamoussoukro, the French government launched a full-scale intervention to attempt to reestablish order. Ultimately, the French deployment, Operation Licorne (Unicorn), set up an east-west cease-fire line across Côte d’Ivoire in cooperation with the United Nations mission (ONUCI) to prevent the rebel forces from attacking the capital and Abidjan. 2 As of January 2007, France still had 3,800 soldiers deployed in Côte d’Ivoire, despite numerous attempts by France and the UN to mediate between the government and rebels to bring an end to the civil war. 3 France’s intervention in Côte d’Ivoire was a surprise to many French academics and policymakers who believed that France’s active military policy in Africa was at an end after a number of significant military and political disasters during the 1990s. 4 The events that constrained the ability of France to launch any new actions in Africa included the Rwandan genocide, the failure of the 1996-1997 interventions in the Central African Republic (CAR) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and the advent of a 1 I would like to thank the School of International Relations and the Center for International Studies at the University of Southern California for their generous support for three research trips to Paris, Aix-en-Provence, and London to access archives and other necessary source materials for this research project unavailable in the United States. I would also like to thank the Centre Américain at the Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques in Paris, France for access to their library and archive sources, as well as office and research space during the summers of 2005 and 2006. I would like to thank Dr. Laurie Brand, Dr. Geoffrey Wiseman and Dr. Roger Dingman at the University of Southern California for their review and comments on chapters of the dissertation upon which this paper is based. 2 “Les forces françaises entre deux feux,” Le Point (October 4, 2002); “Côte d’Ivoire : pourquoi Chirac bouge enfin,” Jeune Afrique (December 15, 2002); “L’armée française s’attend à devoir rester plusieurs mois en Côte d’Ivoire,” Le Monde (December 24, 2002). 3 International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), The Military Balance 2007 (London: Routledge, 2007), 114. 4 See in particular Danièle Domergue, “Coopération et interventions militaires en Afrique : la fin d’une aventure ambiguë?” Guerres mondiales et conflits contemporains 191 (1998), 117-134; and André Dumoulin, La France militaire en Afrique (Brussels: GRIP, 1997). 2

Authors: Griffin, Christopher.
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Introduction
In September and October 2002, France significantly augmented its military
garrison in Côte d’Ivoire after elements of the Ivoirian Army mutinied in Abidjan. As the
situation in the country swiftly deteriorated toward civil war between rebels in the north
and Laurent Gbagbo’s government in Yamoussoukro, the French government launched a
full-scale intervention to attempt to reestablish order. Ultimately, the French deployment,
Operation Licorne (Unicorn), set up an east-west cease-fire line across Côte d’Ivoire in
cooperation with the United Nations mission (ONUCI) to prevent the rebel forces from
attacking the capital and Abidjan.
As of January 2007, France still had 3,800 soldiers
deployed in Côte d’Ivoire, despite numerous attempts by France and the UN to mediate
between the government and rebels to bring an end to the civil war.
France’s intervention in Côte d’Ivoire was a surprise to many French academics
and policymakers who believed that France’s active military policy in Africa was at an
end after a number of significant military and political disasters during the 1990s.
The
events that constrained the ability of France to launch any new actions in Africa included
the Rwandan genocide, the failure of the 1996-1997 interventions in the Central African
Republic (CAR) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and the advent of a
1
I would like to thank the School of International Relations and the Center for International Studies at the
University of Southern California for their generous support for three research trips to Paris, Aix-en-
Provence, and London to access archives and other necessary source materials for this research project
unavailable in the United States. I would also like to thank the Centre Américain at the Fondation
Nationale des Sciences Politiques in Paris, France for access to their library and archive sources, as well as
office and research space during the summers of 2005 and 2006. I would like to thank Dr. Laurie Brand,
Dr. Geoffrey Wiseman and Dr. Roger Dingman at the University of Southern California for their review
and comments on chapters of the dissertation upon which this paper is based.
2
“Les forces françaises entre deux feux,” Le Point (October 4, 2002); “Côte d’Ivoire : pourquoi Chirac
bouge enfin,” Jeune Afrique (December 15, 2002); “L’armée française s’attend à devoir rester plusieurs
mois en Côte d’Ivoire,” Le Monde (December 24, 2002).
3
International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), The Military Balance 2007 (London: Routledge, 2007),
114.
4
See in particular Danièle Domergue, “Coopération et interventions militaires en Afrique : la fin d’une
aventure ambiguë?” Guerres mondiales et conflits contemporains 191 (1998), 117-134; and André
Dumoulin, La France militaire en Afrique (Brussels: GRIP, 1997).
2


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