Brazzaville Coup Shows French Decline

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African leaders abhor a vacuum, and they've been busily filling the power void left by France's declining influence over its former colonies in the 90's.

This week's example: Paris grudgingly accepted the ousting of Republic of Congo President Pascal Lissouba by former Marxist dictator Denis Sassou Nguesso.

While the French remained passive, Angola — anxious to protect its oil fields from Congo-based separatist guerrillas — sent planes and tanks to assist Sassou Nguesso's coup.

As with the ascent of Laurent Kabila in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, the insurrection reflected the emergence of a new alliance of lapsed-Marxist African leaders — led by Angola’s Eduardo Dos Santos, Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni and Rwanda’s Paul Kgame — determined to reshape the region’s politics in pursuit of IMF-aided economic development, and more inclined to deal with Washington than with Paris.

“I think the French are pretty much resigned to the fact they can’t go in like Rambo any more to prop up a friendly government,” says TIME Paris correspondent Bruce Crumley. “They no longer have the money to buy off these governments, or the political and diplomatic will to intervene militarily. So they’re pretty resigned to having to just let go.” C’est la vie, Lissouba.