Bob Dénard – now there’s a biography I’d like to write. Né Gilbert Bourgeaud, aka Said Mustapha Mahdjoub, Muslim, Jewish or Catholic depending on the territory being occupied. Father of eight, murderer of many.
Killer of independence.
The lessons he carried out, cautionary tales illustrating the cost of freedom versus the value of it, have weighed heavily on my mind this past week.
For three decades, beginning in the 1960s, he was the patrol dog of Françafrique and beyond. He put his mercenary paws all over Benin, Gabon, Congo, Yemen, Nigeria, Iran, Zimbabwe, and his favourite target, L’Union des Comores. He’s doctored more coups and coup attempts than I have fingers and toes, generally with the backing of Western powers looking to protect their interests in the decolonized South. It was in France’s interest that the Comores be plunged into chaos and poverty post independence. It was in France’s interest that these newborn republics fail. Otherwise, what sort of message would that send to the remaining colonies? Colonies that, to this day, moodily accept overseas territory status and massive inequality, perhaps for fear that the alternative – independence – would leave them in much worse shape. Recent referenda in Martinique, French Guiana and Mayotte show that no, in fact, we do not all yearn to be free. Some would prefer to stay yoked, heads held above water, than drown.
Vive la mort, vive la guerre, vive le sacre mercenaire.
I wonder if Bob the Dog ever looked on Haiti and cursed himself for having been born too late. “A century and a half earlier,” he might have muttered, “and I could have put a clamp on that, too.”
Awful, awful, awful.