16 | OCT | 2019
A multilateral world order is the best answer to the neocolonialism threat
Colonial structures from European imperialist times symbolized by the Genoese explorer were replaced after the formal creation of new independent republics by other forms of dominance and dependence - Illustration/File illustration/EL UNIVERSAL

A multilateral world order is the best answer to the neocolonialism threat

04/10/2019
16:34
Gabriel Moyssen
Mexico City
-A +A
Under various different masks and pretexts, neocolonialism is back in our age marked by the decline of the sole superpower, the return of nationalist trends and an increasingly chaotic world

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Under various different masks and pretexts, neocolonialism is back in our age marked by the decline of the sole superpower, the return of nationalist trends and an increasingly chaotic world, where other threats to its survival as climate change and nuclear war need to be addressed with the consolidation of a true multilateral order.

On the occasion of Columbus Day (Día de la Raza in Mexico) next week, it is worth noting that in numerous cases across the global south, colonial structures from European imperialist times symbolized by the Genoese explorer were replaced after the formal creation of new independent republics by other forms of dominance and dependence, even in the wave of decolonization that followed World War II.

One clear example of this phenomenon is provided by the vast former French colonies in Africa, known as Françafrique in the European country. 

According to journalist Mawuna Remarque Koutonin, by 2014 France’s central bank was holding at least 85% of the foreign reserves—nearly USD $500 billionfrom 12 countries since 1961: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Gabon, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Republic of the Congo, Senegal, and Togo, as well as the foreign reserves from Equatorial Guinea and Guinea-Bissau.

In addition to this post-colonial pact, similar to the unfair “debt agreement” imposed to Haiti after its independence in the 19th century, the Central African CFA franc is the currency of Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and the Republic of the Congo.

CFA stands for “Financial Cooperation in Central Africa”, yet Franco-Beninese activist Kemi Seba has stated that authentic economic development in these countries can be only achieved if they get rid of the currency.

He argued that in exchange for the guarantees provided by the French treasury, African nations channel more money to Paris than they receive in aid

Seba also argued that they have no say in deciding key monetary policies agreed to by European countries, which are members of the Eurozone.

However, the West African CFA (“Financial Community of Africa”) franc, of equal value to the Central African CFA franc is the currency of Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Togo.

It is no wonder that French President Francois Mitterand remarked that “without Africa, France will have no history in the twentieth-first century,” while his successor Jacques Chirac affirmed in 2008 that “without Africa, France will slide down into the rank of a third [world] power.”

France has been involved in more than 40 coups against African governments in the last 50 years; in the Americas, where the famed historian Miguel León-Portilla, who died on Tuesday, analyzed the language and culture of Mexican Pre-Columbian peoples, other old colonial powers have resorted to direct military intervention as it happened during the Falklands War in 1982.

Expeditionary force

The expeditionary force sent by British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to the South Atlantic, in order to recover the Falkland Islands (known in Spanish as Malvinas) occupied by the Argentinian military junta, was considered a rarity in the Western hemisphere despite the permanence of several colonies in the Caribbean and South America.

Nevertheless, some experts as Martin Sieff reckon that the Falklands War can be seen as part of the project to recolonize the world impulsed by Thatcher and United States President Ronald Reagan, which predated the fall of the Soviet Union and the imposition of a brief, hegemonic Western neoliberal order.

Today, the emergence of a multipolar world after the failure of the Afghanistan and Iraq invasions, as well as the strengthening of China and Russia, is opening space for new forms of expansionism and colonialism

A case study is the Saudi and Emirati invasion of Yemen in 2015, using the support for the regime of Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi as a justification against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

Under the mantle of global organizations, other powers are seeking to maintain or impose their regional dominance, such as Australia in the South Pacific.

The Canberra government actively opposed the Indonesian annexation of East Timor when the enclave gained independence from Portugal in 1975 and headed a peacekeeping force deployed to restore order after the Timorese voted for independence in a United Nations-supervised referendum in 1992.

Western scholars, for their part, have pointed out that China is the best example of neocolonialism due to the New Silk Road, from the China- Pakistan Economic Corridor to the Hambantota port in Sri Lanka and its strategic naval base in Djibouti, located in the Horn of Africa.

Beijing, they argue, had loaned more than USD $94 billion to African governments and state-owned enterprises. Many countries welcomed Chinese investment because it did not come with strings attached, such as a requirement for free elections or public accountability.

The Asian giant proceeded on the presumption that its access to Africa’s markets, enhanced influence, and ability to exploit the continent’s natural resources would compensate it for any unpaid loans.

While the French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy promoted Western intervention in Libya and Syria using as pretext the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), a political commitment to prevent genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, alarm bells rang in Brazilia on August after the French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted “our house is burning. Literally. The Amazon rainforest—the lungs which produces 20% of our planet oxygen—is on fire,” just before hosting the Group of Seven summit in Biarritz.

The response from the right-wing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro was harsh, declaring in the UN General Assembly that “it is a fallacy to say that the Amazon is a world heritage.”

Bolsonaro read an alleged letter of support signed by an indigenous group denouncing exploitation by “countries who still see in Brazil a colony without rules or sovereignty.” He added that “the UN has played a fundamental role in the suppression of colonialism, and we cannot allow this mentality to return to these rooms and corridors at any pretext.”

This is not the first time that Western circles intervene in Brazil based on humanitarian and environmental grounds. 

The Rainforest Foundation Fund was first founded in 1987 by Belgian activist Jean-Pierre Dutilleux and British singer Sting, after Raoni, an indigenous Brazilian leader, “made a personal request to them to help his Kayapo community protect their lands and culture.”

The unabated destruction of the environment, the dispute for natural resources, and climate change, however, have the potential to make the foreign interference plans a reality.

Former U.S. Southern Command and former Atlantic Alliance supreme commander James Stavridis wrote an essay last month, underscoring that “those rising plumes of smoke over the Amazon are a direct threat to our national security.”

Editing by Sofía Danis
More by Gabriel Moyssen

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