France has a long history of armed action in Africa, mostly in its former colonies. The following are the main interventions since 1960, when most of the African colonies became independent.
Libya: In February 2011, after the United Nations authorized action to protect civilians during a civil war, France, along with Britain, took the lead in a bombing campaign against Libya. The airstrikes contributed to the fall of leader Moammar Gadhafi.
Cote d’Ivoire: In 2002, the French mounted Operation Licorne after a military rebellion effectively cut Cote d’Ivoire in two. In 2004, they destroyed Cote d’Ivoire’s small air force after government forces bombed a French base. In 2011, French forces taking part in the Licorne offensive worked alongside U.N. forces during the civil war sparked by President Laurent Gbagbo’s refusal to leave power after losing an election.
Chad: In 1968-1972, French troops intervened to put down a rebellion in the north of the country. In 1978-1980, French forces defended the government against rebels. In 1983-1984, there was new French intervention in Chad, when the government was threatened by rebels backed by Gadhafi’s Libya. In 1986, there was a further operation against Chadian rebels, mainly using air power. In 2008, French soldiers intervened to bolster the regime and evacuate foreigners during attacks by rebels from neighboring Sudan.
Central African Republic: In 1979, French forces deposed Jean-Bedel Bokassa, the eccentric Central African Republic’s “emperor.” In 1996 and 1997, two French interventions were made to maintain order following mutinies among the local military. In 2006 and 2007, French forces intervened in the northeast to back Bangui’s troops against the rebels.
Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire): In 1978, French and Belgian paratroopers dropped into the mineral-rich Katanga region, where rebels were holding Europeans. In 1991, French troops deployed in the capital, Kinshasa, during riots against the regime of President Mobutu Sese Seko. In 2003, France provided most of the military personnel for a U.N. operation to protect civilians in the northeastern Ituri region.
Comoros: In 1989, French forces went in when President Ahmed Abdallah Abderemane was assassinated and mercenaries headed by Bob Denard, also French, took power. In 1995, there was new French intervention to halt a coup, again led by Denard.
Rwanda: In 1990-1993, French soldiers helped evacuate French nationals and other Europeans after rebels invaded the country. In 1994, two separate French interventions followed the death in a plane crash of President Juvenal Habyarimana, which sparked genocidal killings that left an estimated 800,000 people dead. France’s Operation Turquoise, which also involved troops in neighboring Zaire, was later considered a disaster, and Rwandan authorities accused it of not only failing to stop the massacres but also of facilitating them.