Chirac Backed African Coup

A French tribunal let free a band of mercenaries who staged a 1995 coup in the Comoros Islands on the grounds that French President Jacques Chirac approved their action.

Covert attempts by President Chirac to exert influence over Africa were exposed by a French court yesterday, when it denounced his secret services for conniving with a band of mercenaries in a coup in the tiny Comoros Islands. In a damning ruling, the Paris Criminal Tribunal said that the French authorities had given at least tacit approval to the 1995 coup led by Bob Denard, the best-known French soldier of fortune. The judgment came as Denard, now 77, and 26 other defendants were found guilty of criminal association in connection with a military operation to oust Said Mohamed Djohar, the Comoros President, 11 years ago. The court refused a prosecution demand to jail the plotters and instead handed out suspended sentences after hearing them claim that they were acting with the backing of M Chirac’s Government.

Although France has long been accused of secret operations to maintain its influence in Africa, the ruling constituted an unprecedented, public condemnation of these practices. It was particularly embarrassing for M Chirac, who has sought to portray himself as one of the Third World’s greatest advocates in the West.

“It is clear that the French secret services knew of the plan for a coup d’état conceived by Robert Denard, both its preparation and execution,” the court said. “It is also evident that at the very least they did nothing to hinder it and that they therefore allowed it to reach its conclusion. As a consequence, that means political leaders must also have wanted it.”

Quite bizarre. And, as Ed Morrissey notes, rather inconsistent with Chirac’s stance during the run-up to the Iraq War.

UPDATE: Fausta Wertz adds, “Long-time readers of this blog will remember last year’s story on how How Chirac ‘ordered’ his own secret, secret service, a story that surfaced during the trial of a former French secret agent acussed of receiving 1.3 million euros (£880,000) in kickbacks from military contractors.”

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Dave Schuler says:

    I’d say it’s pretty consistent with his stance. If the coup had strengthened the U. S. hand, do you think he would have approved of it? Conversely, if the effect of the coup would have been to weaken France’s influence, would he have approved of that?

    I think that Chirac’s policies have been consistently to attempt to advance France’s standing in the world if only by exploiting U. S. discomfiture.

  2. DC Loser says:

    French shady business in Africa after independence is an open secret. Many citizens of the southern half of Ivory Coast believe that it was the French who backed the rebels that partitioned the country in half, and the French military presence in that country covertly backing the partition.

  3. Fausta says:

    Which is why Ralph Peters was saying Don’t help Paris rape Africa, again.