Khaki-colored revolutions


Al Jazeera

The mood in the presidential palaces of African countries is worse than ever. After the putsch in Gabon, the neighbors — Paul Biya, the leader of Cameroon, Denis Sassou Nguesso — Congo-Brazzaville, and Theodoro Obiang — Equatorial Guinea — are especially worried. At the same time, all three have already entered the «advanced age» category.

Congo-Brazzaville, or the Republic of Congo, not only shares 2,000 kilometers of common border with rebellious Gabon, but the ruling elites are also linked by kinship. Like Gabon’s president, who is under house arrest, the Congolese president Sassou Nguesso has served his country since 1979, with a five-year break.

It all resembles a series of color revolutions, except that the current military coups are more of a khaki color.

Now the most serious situation is in another country, the Democratic Republic of Congo. At the end of August, in the administrative center, the city of Goma, there was a demonstration against the presence of the UN mission MONUSCO. The demonstration was brutally suppressed: about 50 people were killed, 6 soldiers, including two senior officers, were brought to trial.

Local social media immediately posted Macron’s interview with a French TV channel in which he says the following: «I believe we should have the courage to speak out against President Felix Tshisekedi, given his numerous, day after day, repetitive, unacceptable, shocking and brutal repression of his people».

An audio-only version with a picture of the French president and the channel’s logo appeared on social networks. Analysis of the voice showed that neither the timbre nor the rhythm of the speech is not Macron’s at all. The fake was made using Deep Voice technology, an audio version of the famous Deep Fake.

It’s crude, but it’s okay. The French, not the Congolese, analyzed it, and the locals gladly accepted everything and raised a fuss in the networks: «Down with the French», «The DRC is an independent state», «France — get out of here».

The purpose of this whole operation is to destabilize the president and his camp before the elections scheduled in the DRC for December 20 this year. And the fake audio should fuel anti-French sentiment, which has played a major role in all the recent coups.

In other African countries, trolls have worked successfully. In August, the same technology was used in Guinea, where Macron allegedly spoke with Colonel Doumbouya, who once organized a coup d’état, and discussed with him a plan to harass his main political rival. In June, information was circulating in the Malian sector of the Internet about secret talks with the French president, where plans to destabilize the country were being hatched.

President Tshisekedi has already been attempted to be overthrown. Last year, he traveled to Addis Ababa for an African Union summit, but received reports of a credible threat of a putsch in the DRC. He didn’t waste time at the summit, flew immediately to Kinshasa and proceeded to make arrests.

How realistic is a putsch in the Congo? It is quite realistic, but we must take into account a very serious factor that will largely influence the situation.

The DRC has been developing economic relations with China for 50 years, since Mobutu’s time. The Chinese have been building large complexes like the Peoples’ Palace, where the parliament sits, or the Martyrs’ Stadium. In 2008, the DRC and China signed a «Minerals for Infrastructure» agreement that gave the Chinese access to the largest deposits of cobalt.

China is now the DRC’s main economic partner. One-third of Congo’s foreign trade is with the Celestial Empire. It has already invested 10 billion dollars in Congo, and this allows it to control a substantial part of the cobalt deposits.

In addition, China provides military assistance to Congo, namely, it supplies combat UAVs to fight armed groups in the east of the country. In principle, China is satisfied with the status quo in Kinshasa in this case, but in the event of a coup, Beijing will not interfere, of course, and will be able to negotiate with the military, otherwise what kind of Chinese are they?

But this situation does not suit the United States, because cobalt is a strategic raw material and is used in the production of batteries for electric cars. This market is now just taking off into the stratosphere and beyond. It is unlikely that the US will allow China to control such a large part of the pie. So the situation in the DRC is being watched very closely.

But all this is terribly far away from the people living on $2.50 a day. What the people are seeing is this. There is nothing to eat, no social assistance and no similar structures at all. There are virtually no roads, which means there is no way to sell timber there and chickens here. The income is clear.

So-called «civil societies» in Central and West African countries exist and they are even visible. But as soon as the military comes to power, these organizations start to be repressed, shut up and even forced to leave. The most powerful movement historically was in Burkina Faso, but it is now neither seen nor heard. In Guinea, a collective citizens’ movement once helped prevent Alpha Condé from being nominated for a third term, but was harshly repressed after the military took power.

Hatred of France alone is not enough to galvanize the people into revolt.

«France’s military presence is a secondary factor,» says Rémi Carrejol, a member of the editorial board of the Africa XXI portal. — Yes, in Mali, Burkina and Niger, we have seen this clearly: it is enough to start berating France’s military presence to easily win over a part of public opinion. But that is not what drives the military in its desire to seize power.»

In Mali and Burkina Faso, the main factor in the coups was the inability of the state to withstand the jihadists. Plus the rampant corruption and electoral fraud in Mali and the broken promises of the junta that came to power in Burkina Faso. In Niger, Al Qaeda* and ISIS* are coming from the west, Boko Haram* from the east, and drug trafficking from Libya.

Organizations recognized as terrorist and banned on the territory of the Russian Federation by the decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation.