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Rony Brauman: « French military interventions create “safe billets” in Africa »

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Rony Brauman
Rony
Brauman

Medical doctor, specialized in tropical medicine and epidemiology. Involved in humanitarian action since 1977, he has been on numerous missions, mainly in contexts of armed conflicts and IDP situations. President of Médecins sans Frontières from 1982 to1994, he also teaches at the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute (HCRI) and is a regular contributor to Alternatives Economiques. He has published several books and articles, including "Guerre humanitaires ? Mensonges et Intox" (Textuel, 2018), "La Médecine Humanitaire" (PUF, 2010), "Penser dans l'urgence" (Editions du Seuil, 2006) and "Utopies Sanitaires" (Editions Le Pommier, 2000).

This interview was published on July 03, 2018 in l'Opinion

How do you view France’s military interventions in Africa?

They don’t all follow the same logic.  We can’t compare the intervention in Mali with that in Libya, for example. In Mali, it was about saving a regime. In Libya, it was about bringing one down. But in both cases, we see far more virtues in the use of armed force than it actually deserves. The intervention in Mali may well have been justified back in 2013 to put a stop to armed groups and act as a shield against an imminent and serious threat. But pursuing this operation is far less justifiable and raises numerous questions. Expecting a military intervention to establish democracy or put an end to a phenomenon as deep-rooted as terrorism is to accredit the army with powers of transformation that it simply doesn’t have. There are many diplomats and soldiers well aware of just how fanciful these objectives are.

Why don’t you believe in the merits of long-term action?

Because it's a form of clientelism to continue defending regimes on the pretext that they are a lesser evil.  Yesterday, it was against communism, today it’s against Islamic terrorism. We are creating safe billets, guaranteed incomes, with this infernal insistence on maintaining the prudential status quo. In fact there are no real alternatives to local and regional political solutions, certainly not imported ones. Thanks to the military safeguards provided by France, the ruling powers don't need to change a thing on the ground. The last time I was in Mali, I saw people in rural areas being kept in servitude, illegal as it may be. Poor populations have no political influence. True, Mali is not a dictatorship like Egypt, but in practice, it’s still boils down to “woe to the vanquished and the weak!” So, our military interventions protect an unjust status quo that in fact fosters Jihadism. A prime example of this policy was the support that François Mitterrand provided to the Algerian military after the Islamic Salvation Front won the legislative elections in 1992. The ensuing civil war claimed 150,000 lives, and Algeria has still not found a way out of this political impasse – and has a mummy as its head of state.

Doesn't accepting alternative political solutions mean allowing Islamic fundamentalists to take power? 

We have to accept local political truths. And Islamists in power doesn’t necessarily mean the development of international terrorism. Of course we have the right to defend ourselves against terrorism, but not to prevent all forms of political transformation, so one way or another Islamists are likely to take power. Tunisia is a virtuous example of this. If the Islamic party, Ennahda, had been prohibited from forming a government, the country would still be led by Ben Alists.

One of the biggest concerns of Europeans in Africa, propagated by Emmanuel Macron, is migration, the hope being to curb departures. What are your thoughts on this?

We need to start looking at things from a different perspective: not migration, but mobility. In 2008 we published a report with Bertrand Badie, Emmanuel Decaux, Catherine Withold de Wenden and Guillaume Devin, entitled, « Pour un autre regard sur les migrations  [“ For a different view of migration»] (Editions la Découverte). We need an international approach to mobility. It should be organised with a new United Nations body, working hand in hand with the countries of departure and destination and civil society organisations. What we are seeing across the world is the aspiration to be mobile, to be able to go back and forth - not to be permanently uprooted, with all the pain that brings. People want the chance to go and work elsewhere and then return to where they came from. Even in France, lots of people go and work abroad! Prohibiting mobility helps create a criminal market for human trafficking. Even asylum seekers find themselves in this situation – looking for temporary shelter until they can return to their country, including lots of Syrians. We talk a lot about co-development, but this depends on people – real developers – who can come and go, without fear of being confined in a closed space.

To cite this content :
Rony Brauman, Rony Brauman: « French military interventions create “safe billets” in Africa », 9 July 2018, URL : https://www.msf-crash.org/en/blog/war-and-humanitarianism/rony-brauman-french-military-interventions-create-safe-billets-africa

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