Wednesday, April 27, 2011

FRANCE - Chase Françafrique, she returned to gallop

These are images that France wanted to avoid at all costs: French soldiers fired on military positions and ammunition depots in Côte d'Ivoire and UN peacekeepers to help attack the presidential palace in Abidjan. Supporters of outgoing Head of State Laurent Gbagbo accuse the French of barbarism and colonialism.

Those of Alassane Ouattara, President-elect, asking instead that Paris is heavily involved. France finds itself drawn into it despite the civil war and must now conduct a second intervention in an African country, in addition to that in which it participates in Libya. President Sarkozy had yet come into office promising to reduce the French military presence in Africa.

He wanted to normalize relations between France and its former colonies, and rid the stench of its African policy of interference and the primacy of economic interests. * Françafrique was to end. France no longer be the "gendarme of Africa", promised Sarkozy. Côte d'Ivoire provides an opportunity to practice this new reserve policy.

Rich country - compared to other African states - had long been known to be the "showcase" of France on the continent. Chaired by the "father" of independence, Felix Houphouet-Boigny, relations remained excellent. Things changed after the election of Laurent Gbagbo in 2000. The new president quickly tried to unite in hatred against France, his country ravaged by civil war.

French and Ivory Coast clashed in 2004. The crowd was hunting for French nationals in Abidjan. More than 8000 of them had to leave the country. All this did not prevent the two parties to continue to trade. The large French companies such as Bouygues and Bolloré, owned by Sarkozy's friends, are still important economic players in Abidjan.

In addition, some French Socialists maintained close relations with Laurent Gbagbo, who declared "non-practicing socialist." To prevent further turmoil between the two countries and keep France away from conflict, President Sarkozy prominently displayed its neutrality during the election campaign that pitted Alassane Ouattara Laurent Gbagbo in 2010.

After the victory of the latter, which was recognized by the international community, the French government asked Gbagbo to step down. He stressed however that he did not wish to intervene militarily in the civil war coming and it would only intervene if the French nationals were threatened.

Meanwhile, Paris urged the United Nations peacekeepers to protect civilians more active in Côte d'Ivoire. These days, pressure had increased significantly on Sarkozy. Both sides had engaged in Ivorian massacre. Abidjan had become the prey of violent fighting. We might witness a bloodbath among the civilian population and see the chaos spread throughout the country.

Sarkozy was asked why he was speaking not as Libya and Ivory Coast. The Rwandan genocide, during which Paris had its own admission committed serious errors of assessment, was a warning. Gbagbo's supporters were constantly rail against Paris. Two French soldiers were kidnapped by Gbagbo in Abidjan.

The 12,000 French nationals living in Côte d'Ivoire began to fear for their lives. And do not forget the economic interests of France in this country rich in oil, natural gas and various minerals. Paris could still be careful not to intervene militarily? Not according Ally Coulibaly, Ivory Coast's new ambassador to France, who declared that Paris was not to be paralyzed by its colonial complex.

"We call for a strong involvement of France." The United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has also called on Sarkozy to help UN troops to destroy the heavy weapons of Gbagbo and protect the civilian population. That's what tipped the balance: Sarkozy has sent his soldiers to fire, alongside UN peacekeepers.

What France has just search by intervening militarily in its former colony, fifty years after independence [7 August 1960]? Sarkozy can meet it acts on the basis of a Security Council resolution and the UN request. France maintains long been a force, called Licorne in Côte d'Ivoire. It recently fell from 900 to 1100 men.

The soldiers control the Abidjan airport and trying to secure thousands of French and other foreigners. On 5 April, helicopter gunships flew French again over Abidjan where the final battle was raging. Constable is back in Africa.

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