Sunday, June 7, 2015

Independent French Equatorial Africa After Limited Nazi Victory?

Here's another goodie from the alternate-history forum. The member whose handle is Jonathan_Edelstein came up with the idea that in the event of a German-British peace early in WWII (his idea is that Hitler dies in 1941 before the invasion of the Soviet Union and his successors decide to postpone the plan to finish Britain first), not all of France's colonies would submit to the Vichy regime even if it was recognized as the legitimate government of France as part of a compromise peace.

In particular, he suggested French Equatorial Africa might rebel against the new government and ally with the Free French. The basis for this is that the governor of French Equatorial Africa was Félix Éboué, the only black French colonial governor in the French Empire at the time and possibly the only black colonial governor anywhere, ever. Éboué decides he has no future under Vichy and rebels using Chadian troops, gambling on Vichy France's lack of a navy to avoid immediate invasion.

According to Edelstein, Éboué's government wouldn't be a fully decolonized state, but a sort of paternalistic limited-franchise regime with a lot of French government officials and a strong influence by the Catholic Church. He also suggested the different factions within the state could be at odds with each other, including the Catholic civilian government on the coast, the Muslim Chadian soldiery, etc.

The user whose handle is Pikers3 said he doubted it would last long. In order to maintain its legitimacy, the Vichy regime would have to claim all of France's colonies and could not tolerate a rival French state anywhere. With Britain at peace with Germany and (Vichy) France, the Germans and what remains of the loyalist French navy will invade Éboué's state (possibly with the support of Franco, who is no longer deterred by the threat of British attack) and quickly take control. There might be Free French troubles in the interior, but that'd be it. He said historians would remember this as the last gasp of the Free French.

However, there is a way around this. Depending on how long it takes until Britain is brought to the table, the German and Vichy surface navies could be totally wrecked in the meantime. The German fleet took heavy losses invading Norway and the British waged war against the Vichy regime as a co-belligerent of the Nazis, including at one point attacking and sinking much of the French navy lest the Nazis get it. If the Germans and the Vichy allies bring the British to the table by fighting a war of attrition at sea and in the Middle East and North Africa, they might have no surface navy left by the time this is done.

In that case, although the Germans could blockade French Equatorial Africa's ports with submarines, no surface navy means no immediate invasion of FEA. FEA could putter along for years as some kind of blockaded unrecognized state in the vein of Rhodesia.

I'll send this to Jonathan_Edelstein and see what he thinks...

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