November 16, 2004
COTE D'IVOIRE: FRENCH 'INTERVENTIONISM' HAS TURNED 'INTO DISASTER'
** Critics label France's role in Cote d'Ivoire the "worst form of colonialism."
** Other dailies allege President Gbagbo has pushed Cote d'Ivoire to the "brink of civil war."
** African observers worry about the conflict's "catastrophic consequences" for the region.
** Multilateralists support a stronger role for either the UN or the African Union.
France's 'colonial mentality'-- Assailing Paris' "imperialistic and colonial view," numerous dailies blamed the crisis in Cote d'Ivoire on France's "futile interposition." French writers questioned Paris' "opaque dealings" with "former protectorates" in Africa; right-of-center Le Figaro urged the country to "get out of the Ivoirian hornets' nest." Euro critics derided France's desire to maintain its "zone of influence in its former colonial empire." Kenya's independent Standard cited France's "delusions of grandeur and control freak nature." Other papers accused France, "so keen to denounce the American occupation of Iraq," of "moral double standards" given its "imperialist and military occupation" of Cote d'Ivoire.
'Gbagbo has to take the blame'-- Pro-Paris outlets denounced the "racist Gbagbo regime" and its "botched, clumsy and bloody" air strikes that not only killed French peacekeepers but also ended a cease-fire with the rebels. France's Catholic La Croix said Gbagbo is "either incompetent or...has a great capacity for harm," while German papers agreed there "will be no peace...with a man like Gbagbo." Francophone African outlets mostly followed Paris's lead, criticizing the "power-hungry" Gbagbo's "bellicose fervor." Senegal's pro-government L'Observateur concluded that Gbagbo "must leave at all costs"; Burkina Faso's pro-opposition Le Pays called for "definitively neutralizing" his regime given its "madness."
A 'dramatic economic crisis'-- Many papers expressed concern that the Ivoirian crisis is "threatening the stability of Western Africa." Because the country had been "France's sole showcase in Africa," explained Benin's state-owned La Nation, "Cote d'Ivoire risks dragging the entire sub-region into chaos." Intensified conflict would "signal the end of France's credibility as protector" of its allies, leading to widespread economic "isolation and collapse." Qatar's semi-official Gulf Times ruefully observed that Africa already has "far more than its fair share of self-inflicted misery."
'The international community has a stake'-- Asserting "stability must be the priority," some observers favored international "pressure tactics" to persuade "all stakeholders to negotiate." Spain's left-of-center El Pais called for the "direct involvement of the African Union...at the head of an international peacekeeping force," while Germany's center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung backed "massive reinforcements for the UN forces" in the country. Several rejected any French role, comparing it to an "attempt to extinguish a fire with gas" given the "anti-French hatred" there. Cote d'Ivoire's independent 24 Heures, however, questioned the UN presence, noting that if UN forces do not "intervene when danger arises, what is the point of having them here?"
Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, email@example.com
EDITORS: Ben Goldberg
EDITOR'S NOTE: Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment. Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion. Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet. This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government. This analysis was based on 57 reports from 22 countries over 7 - 16 November 2004. Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.
COTE D'IVOIRE: "Step In"
Independent French-language 24 Heures declared (11/8): "The French and UN contingents should be criticized for...throwing in the towel when our people pinned so much hope on them to prevent another war.... More than 6,000 troops are serving with the United Nations Operation in Ivory Coast (Unoci), plus another 4,000 French troops in Operation Unicorn. They were deployed to try to restore peace after the September 2002 armed rebellion.... However...Operation Unicorn spokesman Commander Combarieu has said, 'our role is as a rapid intervention forces at the service of Unoci.... We are not here to step in between the warring parties.... Similarly...Unoci has said, 'We are not a buffer force'.... If Unoci and Operation Unicorn cannot intervene when danger arises, what is the point of having them here at all?"
"Chirac Is Still Chirac"
Eric Cossa and Coulibaly Zie Oumar contended in pro-government French-language Notre Voie (11/8): "Chirac...wants to forcefully remove Gbagbo from his position, which has been acquired in a democratic manner, so as to replace him with someone else. It is true Chirac has never changed."
French-language pro-government Fraternite Matin editorialized (11/8): "Ivoirians have no choice--they must seek peace without going to war. And even if they had to go to war today, they would be certainly forced to seek peace tomorrow. It is therefore better to make peace now and avoid war and the tragedies it portends.... Maybe some radicals on both sides--whose number and determination should never be underestimated--really want to battle it out in a duel. But their bosses, or those who inspire them, are conscious of the fact that any war...does not have zero victims.... Those in the know will tell you that the funeral procession of victors in a civil, or rebel war, is too often as sorry as that of losers: people maimed for life, wondering about fields of ruin. Yet is there a way out when a nation engages in such butchery in the sinister name of civil war? We know when it begins but the end does not even belong to God, much less the warring sides."
"Dangerous Turning Point"
Abel Doualy argued in pro-government French-language Fraternite Matin (11/8): "The ruling party FPI, the G7, the young patriots, all the actors in the [Ivorian] crisis seem to be convinced of one thing: though it is not the best way out of the crisis, the resumption of hostilities is becoming more and more an unavoidable turning point."
BENIN: "Gbagbo Is To Blame For The French Presence"
Cotonou-based privately-owned pro-opposition La Nouvelle Tribune maintained (11/9): "We condemn France for its imperialist and military occupation of Cote d'Ivoire.... But the cause of this sudden return of imperialism is Laurent Gbagbo, who is said to be a history professor, but who has learnt nothing from history.... Gbagbo merits condemnation for shutting off the opposition by closing RFI, Africa No 1, and the BBC, and cutting off electricity and water supply to the rebels...who are authentic Ivorians. With a bullet in his head, Gbagbo will join the ashes of Hitler, and not that of Salvador or Allende because he does not have their heroism and grandeur.... Gbagbo has incurred the wrath on Cote d'Ivoire with the death of nine French soldiers who were stabbed in the back, because they were not in a position to attack.... Gbagbo should disappear with the French imperialism which he reinvigorated, so that Ivorians and Africans can have peace, and face development."
"Gbagbo Should Go"
State-owned government-controlled Cotonou-based La Nation stated (11/8): "The fatal escalation of violence in Cote d'Ivoire, and the activities of the young patriots loyal to Gbagbo is unfortunate.... What other strategies does Gbagbo have, having refused to honor his commitments to bring peace to his country?.... Now that the aircraft he depended upon for the attack on the rebel area have been destroyed, how does he bring the young patriots and his followers to reason? Abandoned by France and deplored by the international community after the escalation of the surprise attack on Bouake, the Ivorian head of state has plunged his country into an era of violence that risks spreading to the entire region. Unless removed from power, as was the case of those before him, Cote d'Ivoire risks dragging the entire sub-region into chaos."
"Gbagbo Was Duping The International Community"
Cotonou-based privately-owned pro-opposition La Nouvelle Tribune commented (11/8): "Gbagbo was nursing a secret plan for air attack despite the various accords he signed. His chief of defense staff remarked after the first attack launched on Bouake by the National Armed Forces of Cote d'Ivoire--FANCI--that it was the beginning of the reunification of Cote d'Ivoire. While in Accra, Gbagbo promised his colleagues to ensure the passing of all the laws proposed by the Linas-Marcoussis Accord before the end of September, but scarcely were two out of the over 20 laws passed.... He thought his armies would make mincemeat of the rebels, but he was terribly disappointed. Now that the six helicopters on which he depended have been put out of action, what are the other options? All the observers are waiting to know, because...by dribbling past his African colleagues and deceiving everybody on the international diplomatic scene, Gbagbo has for some time given the strong impression that he no longer wants an election and would prefer to play at the prolongation in power. This will also be dangerous."
BURKINA FASO: "Gbagbo Gets Off Lightly"
Privately-owned pro-opposition French-language Le Pays noted (11/9): "Eventually, Laurent Gbagbo may get off lightly, despite his extremely grave actions.... After violating the cease-fire, bombing the New Forces, killing French soldiers and traumatizing civilians, he has only been called to order by the destruction of his old planes.... Even though the UN has reinforced France's mandate, and although a resolution is being consider to sanction all parties to the conflict (instead of Gbagbo 's camp only), it is worth mentioning once more that the Ivorian regime may dupe the international community.... In the face of the degree of madness reached by President Gbagbo, and the risk of civil war which his attitude exposes to Ivorians, there would be no better solution than that of definitively neutralizing the regime, either by decapitating it from the top, as was the case with [Charles] Taylor or Aristide, or by stripping Gbagbo of all his powers."
"Let's Avoid The Spread Of The Ivorian Conflict"
Ouagadougou-based weekly San Finna held (11/8): "Letting the loyalist Ivorian forces have the upper hand on the rebels would lead to catastrophic consequences not only for the rebels, but all those involved in the conflict.... The resentment...by the [Ivorian] populace could result in a very grave situation...and France could find itself in a quagmire similar to what it experienced in Vietnam, Algeria or what the Americans faced in Somalia."
"Fatal Folly In Abidjan"
Privately-owned pro-opposition French-language Le Pays held (11/8): "For Gbagbo there can only be a military solution to the Ivorian crisis.... All the hawks in his camp are leaping to his defence.... Gbagbo 's group seems to have conclusively turned its back to diplomacy.... It was particularly surprising that France, which proudly brandished the standard of its diplomatic vitality...can today declare itself incapable of preventing the vague war desires of the Gbagbo regime.... The appeals by France and the UN for restraint (hymns that they have never ceased to sing), are nothing but veneers intended to mask their incapacity or their bad faith."
CAMEROON: "Egoism And Duplicity"
Makon ma Pondi remarked in bilingual government-controlled Yaounde-based Cameroon Tribune (11/8): "The extremely worrying situation in Felix Houphouet Boigny's fatherland is due to...evidently, a number of Ivorian leaders--who present themselves as such--who only went to the negotiating table each time...to conceal their bellicose fervour.... The government of national reconciliation formed labouriously at the beginning of 2002...raised a lot of hope within, and outside, the country...without taking into account the power ambitions and egos of some [Ivorians]...and yet again bloodshed has begun. The blood of other Ivorians. One cannot refrain from questioning the Ivorian political classes'...collective responsibility in the deterioration of the situation."
"The Elephant Must Not Die"
Patrice Etoundi Mballa commented in bilingual government-controlled Yaounde-based Cameroon Tribune (11/8): "The particularly worrying situation that Cote d'Ivoire is experiencing currently...is a shocking tragedy, which extends beyond the territorial boundaries of Laurent Gbagbo's country.... Whatever happens Cote d'Ivoire will find the path to its own salvation. The Elephant must not die."
CONGO (KINSHASA): "Non-Political Rhythm"
Noel Rachidi wrote in Kinshasa-based independent bilingual La Reference Plus (11/9): "Ivorian Laurent Gbagbo, the 'baker,' after having rolled people in flour, made an excessive move last weekend.... Congolese should not laugh at Gbagbo's errors. One is tempted to draw a parallel between the Congolese and Ivorian crises. Although differences exist, political actors seem to behave at the same non-political rhythm."
Government-controlled French-language L'Avenir opined (11/9): "The solution to the Ivorian problems was copied from the DRCongolese model. Unfortunately for the Ivorians, they have a power-hungry person in power, a revolutionary with archaic methods. Out of touch, Gbagbo confuses eras, and thinks that he can conquer the world with just two fighter jets."
"Gbagbo, The Shame"
Franck Mona wrote in Kinshasa-based independent bilingual La Reference Plus (11/8): "All presidents who managed Cote d'Ivoire after Houphouet Boigny have not succeeded to manage the heritage of the father of independence.... Today, Boigny's opponent Gbagbo is the one who mostly reveals the zest for canceling the progress the country made among the most peaceful and rich countries in black Africa.... Gbagbo should forget extremism and consider the Marcoussis and Accra III accords for the welfare of his people."
KENYA: "France On The Fringe"
John Mulaa wrote in the independent Standard (11/14): "Judging by its pronouncements, France does not have a clear idea of what it intends to accomplish in Cote d'Ivoire.... Its display of arms in the capital of its former colony sent a clear message that it has military hardware to attempt pacification of rebellious semi-colonial subjects.... After the military display, what then? Is France ready to occupy Cote d'Ivoire for a prolonged period in the hope of crafting a pliable government that is accommodative of the major antagonistic groups in the country? Highly unlikely.... Having its influence reduced and being consigned to a second-rate international power has been hard on France. The region where France likes to play up its former grandeur is its former sub-Saharan colonial possessions. Truth be told, France never really left.... Despite its delusions of grandeur and its control freak nature when dealing with its former African colonies, France has no stomach for costly occupation anywhere. This has been demonstrated repeatedly in several former French African colonies that have unravelled with alarming regularity."
SENEGAL: "Gbagbo, Time To Pay"
French-language pro-government L'Observateur urged (11/9): "For peace to return to Cote d'Ivoire, Gbagbo must leave at all costs.... Gbagbo thinks he has the situation under control, however, he is not yet aware of how France operates. He should not be surprised if helicopters land at his place and asks him to leave power sine die."
TOGO: "Too Stubborn"
Lome-based independent pro-opposition Agni-L'Abeille declared (11/8): "President Gbagbo's stubbornness has led the country to an impasse.... The Ivorian constitution has empowered President Gbagbo to ensure the continuity of the state and so he should do everything possible to bring peace back to the country.... The President must tone down his position, or else he will be the great loser if the crisis drags on."
UGANDA: "Ivory Coast Needs Broad Base"
The state-owned New Vision editorialized (11/13): "Cote d'Ivoire has sank deeper into the mire.... The AU summit...should focus on getting all stakeholders to negotiate.... A broad based arrangement would be a fine way to start anew, pending elections in which all parties would pledge not to play the sectarian cards of ethnicity and religion."
BRITAIN: "The UN Should Support France In Ivory Coast"
An editorial in the center-left Independent read (11/9): "It's not a happy situation, and one which may be impossible to bring to a comfortable solution. But France is surely right to show muscle in the face of such obvious breaches of the peace and the UN should now fully back it if it is not to end up, as it has so often before, with its role as peacekeeper fatally weakened."
"Chirac Rushes In"
The conservative Daily Telegraph opined (11/9): "Mr. Chirac has further antagonised government supporters and, by acting unilaterally, has undermined the authority of the UN peacekeeping mission, to which French troops are supposed to be subordinate. Having lost its value as a mediator, France has struck out on its own militarily and, as a consequence, is now compelled to focus on protecting its own citizens. That is obviously a prime responsibility of Mr. Chirac. But it raises the question as to how he has got himself into such a mess. Having become part of the problem, an intervention designed to bring peace has become an obstacle to it."
"At Bay In Abidjan: A French 'Civilizing Mission' Goes Dangerously Awry"
The conservative Times noted (11/9): "As France struggles to contain the situation, clarity about its aims would help. Is it there on a mission civilisatrice to impose democracy, the rule of law and national reconciliation--a mission resembling that of the US, Britain and others in Iraq, and possibly, as enraged Gbagbo loyalists are being told, incorporating regime change? Is France content to straddle a ceasefire line for decades--a thanklessly 'classic' UN peacekeeping operation in the Kashmir or Lebanon mode? Or is its aim to protect France's considerable commercial interests in West Africa's richest economy, a country that is moreover key to regional prosperity? The last goal, paradoxically, would the be the least inflammatory. Glasnost has rarely been a feature of French policy in Francophone Africa; but, in the present emergency, stability must be the priority."
Right-of-center Le Figaro declared (11/15): "President Jacques Chirac on Sunday hardened his tone towards the African country's president, Laurent Gbagbo.... Chirac spoke of an active minority at the core of a questionable regime and pledged to try to stop a slide towards a fascist regime."
Left-of-center weekly Le Nouvel Observateur held (11/15): "We fail to see a role for France in this former colony.... The trap is closing on France in Ivory Coast.... France cannot act as an arbiter in a situation where both sides are seeking to implicate it as much as possible by accusing it of interference.... How can French troops act as a buffer between a rebel north where the situation is catastrophic, and a south where President Gbagbo's supporters incessantly foment anti-French hatred?"
"Paris Is Formally Engaged In The Ivorian Crisis To Defend Its Credibility In Africa"
A commentary in left-of-center Le Monde read (11/10): "The Ivorians are not the only ones to ask themselves why France is so heavily committed in their country.... France's economic presence fuels fantasies, in the Cote D'Ivoire and in France. Yet the time when...French businesses exported most of the coffee and cocoa of which the Cote d'Ivoire is the world's number one and number three exporter respectively...has been over for more than a generation.... The strategic sector of the Ivorian economy, that of agricultural raw materials, has passed into the hands of Anglo-US or Dutch multinationals. But there are some tasty leftovers. More then 500 small businesses and industries with French capital still make up the greater part of the Cote d'Ivoire's industrial fabric.... Many companies are just scraping an existence while awaiting the end of the crisis or have been bought up at bargain prices by Lebanese.... This reality is concealed by the very visible presence of a number of major French groups--Bollore, Bouygues, France Telecom, Total--whose domination, especially in water and electricity management or sea or rail traffic, has such a direct impact on the day-to-day lives of Ivorians that they have the impression of living in a neocolony.... The diplomatic dividend that France continues to reap from its presence in Africa combines with humanitarian considerations that Paris highlights to explain its strong commitment in the Cote d'Ivoire: If the flagship country of French-speaking West Africa, that represents 40 percent of the monetary mass in the regional franc zone, were to disappear, it would signal the end of France's credibility as protector in around 20 of the continent's countries. The influence of the former colonial power in Africa still provides it with an important reservoir of voices on international bodies, in particular the UN."
Patrick Sabatier asserted in left-of-center Liberation (11/9): “Gbagbo appears to want to trade his position of state leader for master of a rogue state… France has no place waging a war in the Ivory Coast or chasing Gbagbo from power. Neither should it finance, as it has been doing, a flailing and openly hostile regime. For lack of a coherent policy, Paris is letting the situation in Abidjan go from bad to worse.... It is clear that France cannot impose peace and democracy in the Ivory Coast through a new colonization of the country.... By imposing an arms embargo on Gbagbo and freezing his assets… the UN may convince the people of the Ivory Coast that Gbagbo’s policies are pushing them into collective suicide and the Ivory Coast to isolation and collapse.”
"The Unfindable Solution To The Ivorian Crisis"
Isabelle Lasserre wrote in right-of-center Le Figaro (11/9): "France, the chief architect of the Marcoussis peace agreements in January 2003, thought it was promoting 'a new model to resolve the crisis.' By taking 'the risk of peace' Paris had sought at the time to avoid the worst: civil war in a former colony that remained France's sole showcase in Africa. Almost two years on civil war still threatens. French soldiers passively watched two Sukhoys taking off that were going, a few moments later, to bomb them.... Paris no longer knows how to get out of the Ivorian hornets' nest. The utter confusion that had accompanied the successive calling into question of the peace agreements since they were signed grew only stronger after the attack on the French soldiers.... Given the impossibility of imposing national reconciliation, France had resigned itself to letting the Ivorian forces teach the rebellion a lesson. That is the reason why the French soldiers let Gbagbo 's fighter planes take off to bomb Bouake.... Surprised by the attack on their Bouake camp, they had not, however, ruled out the possibility that the compromise solution imposed by France might last. The point is that the French peace has never really taken hold in Cote d'Ivoire.... President Gbagbo has not played along with the agreements imposed on him by Paris. The rebels, after participating for a short while in the national unity government, refused to disarm.... France opted for half-choices in Cote d'Ivoire. Certainly, by blocking the rebels' advances on Abidjan, it de facto supported President Gbagbo and saved his regime, but it also imposed at Marcoussis the northern rebels' participation in the government.... For want of a real strategy for the Cote d'Ivoire, France has its hands tied today by the presence of 14,000 nationals and by the constant wrangling between diplomats and soldiers over the Ivorian question. There is no solution to the crisis in sight."
Left-of-center Le Monde observed (11/9): "Is it possible to impose peace in a country whose warring sides are not ready to be reconciled? And is the former colonial power best placed to perform this role as arbiter, as scapegoat, in Cote d'Ivoire.... We await news of whether any French expatriates died in Abidjan, during a weekend of violence, on top of the Ivorian demonstrators and looters that the French Army says it killed in self-defense. But these questions also apply to two years of futile interposition, and to the praiseworthy--at first--intention of averting a bloodbath.... Paris cannot hope to bring peace to a country traumatized by an insurrection that amounts to a permanent coup d'etat, massacres, and attacks.... If the principles underlying France's intervention are truly universal, has the time not come, at this stage, for the international community--embodied by the UN--to take over?.... It would be, first and foremost, a way of demonstrating that multilateral crisis management constitutes a real remedy to powers' solitude, as France argues with regard to the U.S. in Iraq.... We cannot fail to wonder whether there is not some link between the latest flare of violence in Cote d'Ivoire and George Bush's reelection. We know about Gbagbo's attraction to the U.S. and Bush's desire to strengthen his influence in Africa. And a France ensnared in Cote d'Ivoire could prove more understanding toward a U.S. struggling to keep control over Iraq."
Pierre Pier wrote in right-of-center Le Figaro (11/8): "Ties between France and Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo are dangerously close to a breaking point.... The death of the French soldiers...brought a brutal end to the recent thawing in relations between the two countries. Ivorian officials now openly fear the deposition of their president.... France will no longer exhibit any leniency towards Gbagbo."
"A Public Debate Is Needed"
Right-of-center Le Figaro wondered (11/8): "President Jacques Chirac's decision to wipe out the Ivorian air force capability deserves praise.... But France's opaque dealings when it comes to foreign affairs also deserve scrutiny.... Virtually no one in France really understands what the short, medium or long-term French policy is in Ivory Coast.... A public debate on the issue so that we will know what supreme goal nine of our soldiers died for is necessary."
Gerard Dupuy wrote in left-of-center Liberation (11/8): “From Lebanon to Somalia examples abound proving that goodwill operations can turn into disaster.... While in 2002 France was the only one in a position to intervene in the Ivory Coast...it is not in a good position to last as a neutral umpire. Its colonial past...could indeed lead to a confusion of the issues, such as defending the right of law or defending one’s interests.... If Chirac took the risk, as Bush did in Iraq, to be both judge and jury, he at least accepted the get the UN involved.... Reason would dictate that France leave the Ivory Coast, while reality is making France stay, with the risk of doing either too much or too little.”
Bruno Frappat maintained in Catholic La Croix (11/8): “By hitting fast and hard, Chirac has clearly indicated where future responsibilities lie: with the Ivory Coast President.... Four years after his election, Gbagbo has proven that he is either incompetent or that he has a great capacity for harm. He has little time left to demonstrate he retains an ounce of legitimacy and a semblance of ability.”
Right-of-center Le Figaro editorialized (11/7): "We should be wary of the steps Paris has taken in the Ivory Coast so far.... President Jacques Chirac seems determined to punish his Ivorian counterpart, Laurent Gbagbo, but the headache for French troops is of how to respond to the attacks and provocations by President Gbagbo's supporters without endangering the (14,000-strong) French community."
GERMANY: "French Dilemma"
Michael Bitalla argued in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (11/15): "Ivory Coast President Gbagbo said the attack on French soldiers last week was a regrettable mistake, but now he is rewarding the man who was responsible for the attack. This is another step that shows that Gbagbo wants to provoke the former colonial power to the utmost and draw the French even deeper into the war from which France cannot escape that easily. If the French military withdrew, the country would be faced with an ethnic conflict, which could assume the traits of genocide; if the forces remain to monitor the cease-fire line, they could soon fight the government's army. There will be no peace in the Ivory Coast with a man like Gbagbo. That is why it is all the more important that the international community finally implements its threat and imposes an arms embargo and other measures on the country. But even this is uncertain. China, Russia, and Angola have put up resistance to sanctions for days, since they are considered weapons suppliers for Gbagbo's army."
"Fire Extinguished With Gas"
Business-oriented Financial Times Deutschland of Hamburg declared (11/15): "The situation in Ivory Costs has gotten totally out of control.... The UN forces, however, are not totally innocent of the current situation in the former African model country. It is certainly good that they monitor the cease-fire between the former civil war parties. It was also correct that they destroyed the air force of the country following the air strike at French soldiers. But the problem is the composition of the UN force. They are led by France, which pursues economic interests in the country and intervened in the past in politics. Against this background, it is not difficult for the president to take advantages of anti-French resentment and instigate the people. To put it briefly: If the French want to create peace in the Ivory Coast, then this resembles the attempt to extinguish a fire with gas. In any case, the UN must stay in the country but with different representatives. Over the weekend, protesters called for intervention by the U.S., Russia, or China. This would be a solution."
"Out Of Control"
Michael Bitalla noted in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (11/11): "The nightmare of many whites in Africa has become true: A raging mob is hunting Europeans in the Ivory Coast, deprived them of their possessions, and drives them into the refugee camps of the UN or the French military.... But what does the UNSC do? Instead of reacting with tough sanctions against the racist Gbagbo regime, instead of approving massive reinforcements for the UN forces in the region, it gives UN mediator, South Africa's President Mbeki, more time for talks, as if all previous peace agreements and treaties did not fail miserably.... Since the international community continues to hesitate when thousands of Europeans are threatened, we must fear the worst. The fight of Gbagbo's terror groups is directed against all 'foreigners' irrespective of where they come from; but the ones who are threatened the most are the millions of people in the North of the country. There is a reason why observers fear a similar slaughter like the one in Rwanda in 1994. The calculation of the extremists is that, if the Europeans are out of the country, they can clear the situation without being interrupted."
Center-right Thueringer Allgemeine of Erfurt opined (11/9): "UN forces that should keep governmental forces in the South and rebels in the North at distance, are now running the risk of getting between the fronts. If the locals hunt foreigners with machetes and hatchets, if French schools burn, and if a base is attacked, this cannot be explained only with hatred of the former colonial power. Instigated by nationalist governmental parties, the mob loots and pillages and burns houses. The UNSC gave the UN forces a free hand, but nevertheless, they are in a difficult situation. The cease-fire between the hostile camps is the least what needs to be implemented. If the blue helmets withdrew, they would leave anarchy and chaos, let alone the fate of the 15,000 Frenchmen in the country."
"France Between The Fronts"
Michael Bitalla penned the following article in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (11/8): "Since Saturday, France has been in a war with the Ivory Coast, its most important ally in Africa. Even though it is not clear to what extent this conflict will escalate, it is clear that this is a worst-case disaster for the West African country.... It is not exaggerated to say that President Gbagbo is a militant racist and leader of murderous gangs who are allowed to kill foreigners and 'strangers' without being prosecuted. The list of accusations against the president is so long that he could even be considered a war criminal.... His gangs are instigating the mood against the French in the country, because the 'occupiers' are allegedly too friendly to the rebels and keeping the government from clearing the situation in the North of the country.... The mood has been heated up to such an extent that there will be no normalcy for the French in the Ivory Coast.... But if France plans to use force to assert its political, military, and economic interests, the former colonial power would really turn into a colonial power. But a French withdrawal would be even worse. Then the war between Gbagbo's government and the rebels would really break out, and the country would economically collapse. Before the war broke out, the Ivory Coast was the most modern and economically healthiest state in western Africa. The reason was that French companies dominated the economy. Without them, the country would collapse. Only massive international pressure can prevent the escalation--but even then the country would face gloomy times."
"Experiences In Africa"
Peter Sturm noted in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (11/8): "France, whose government so self-confidently rose above the dregs of war in Iraq, is now witnessing the difficulties of a major power in a foreign country. We cannot deny Franc the right to self-defense, since its forces were attacked by the air force of the Ivory Coast without any apparent reason. But let us imagine the reaction in Paris if Americans, as a reaction to a similar attack, had destroyed the air force of the attacker with one strike. In West Africa--at least in the French eyes--everything is different. And that is why the Paris government now has a problem. The civil war in the Ivory Coast, which seemed to have been contained, has fully broken out again. Obviously, President Gbagbo is trying to get on the battlefield what he was refused to get at the negotiating table. It is likely that this happens with French knowledge. The UN has called upon all sides to stick to the cease-fire. But as long as all parties in the conflict do not show the will for a political solution, all appeals will fall on deaf ears."
"Impossible To Be Peacemaker"
Center-right Badische Neueste Nachrichten of Karlsruhe judged (11/8): "Several decades of cynical power and influence policy have made it impossible for the Paris government to be accepted as peacemaker in the region. The European partners should finally understand this, too, for the EU, with France and Germany at the helm, have mainly left it to France to determine the European policy towards Africa."
ITALY: "Raid On French Peacekeeping Forces, Nine Dead"
Massimo Nava contended in centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (11/7): “Ivory Coast, once a tourist paradise, is on the brink of a civil war that could crush France’s attempt to intervene and that could once again humiliate the UN’s role in a conflict zone.... Civil war is a big metaphor of globalization, of the dependence of producer countries on consumer countries, of the fierce struggle for the control of raw materials. The war in Ivory Coast is not one of the many forgotten tribal conflicts.... It’s the consequence of the dramatic economic crisis to which this leading cocoa producer has fallen prey."
AUSTRIA: "The 'Grande Nation' in Its Backyard"
A piece in centrist Die Presse read (11/9): "France would really have liked to demonstrate to the UN (and especially to the U.S) how a peace mission can prevent the escalation of a crisis to an ethnic civil war or even a genocide.... Through its past, former colonial power France feels it has the duty to intervene in the Ivory Coast. Even more important, however, than the feeling of moral obligation that is being reinforced by the traumatic memory of helplessness during the genocide in Rwanda are strategic calculations. There are still 15,000 French citizens living on the Ivory Coast. They not only represent economic interests but also the strong and continuous French presence in West Africa. Without this zone of influence in its former colonial empire, France would find it considerably more difficult to perceive itself as a great political power and act as such. This is the reason why a withdrawal from the buffer zone between Yamoussoukro and Bouaké is not an issue at present."
BELGIUM: "How To Avoid The Trap Set By Tropical Fascism"
Marie-France Cros held in independent La Libre Belgique (11/8): "'Never again,’ people said after the Rwandan genocide. Yet, it seems that all conditions will soon be in place for a similar tragedy to take place in Ivory Coast. As in Rwanda, local authorities have adopted a double language: one of appeasement meant for the international community--by formally accepting a peace plan--and one of war by trying not to implement peace agreements and by allowing the creation of militias of extremist patriots.... As in Rwanda ten years ago, authorities in Ivory Coast mix up democracy and demagoguery, as if this was the only possible policy for leaders who recently discovered pluralism. And like ten years ago the Christian Democrat International had excessively backed the Rwandan parties it was supporting without realizing that it was facilitating the emergence of the ‘Hutu power,’ the Socialist International has so far unconditionally supported its Ivory Coast member, i.e., the party of President Gbagbo. When the Rwandan army killed ten Belgian Blue Helmets in 1994, Brussels pulled out its troops, and it consequently was unable to prevent the genocide. Last Saturday, Ivory Coast’s army killed nine French soldiers, but Paris chose a totally different solution from what Brussels decided ten years ago: France decided to dispatch additional special forces.... Will the French choice be more efficient?”
Left-of-center El Pais held (11/9): "France must exercise maximum restraint to prevent a further exacerbation of hatred.... The resolution of the conflict...requires the direct involvement of the African Union, not just as a political mediator but at the head of an international peacekeeping force.... Otherwise French President Jacques Chirac runs the risk of facing more troop casualties and having to ask the UN for more assistance."
Barcelona-based Catalan-language Catalan-nationalist Avui alleged (11/9): "Paris is guilty of moral double standards.... Curiously...the same Chirac who urges Bush to allow the U.S. army in Iraq to give way to a UN force has refused to integrate the French troops in Ivory Coast into a similar contingent.... Chirac invokes the same principles as his U.S. counterpart to justify the conduct of his soldiers in a country whose people see the French presence as an enduring sign of the worst kind of colonialism."
"France's Double Standard"
Conservative ABC declared (11/8): "That which is currently happening with the French troops deployed, with a UN mandate, in the Ivory Coast clearly shows that when it comes to defending its own interests, Chirac doesn't hesitate. For this reason, we can deduce that his policy of obstruction of the Western intervention in Iraq doesn't come from any altruistic purposes, but because the only ethic that France uses is the defense of the French interests.... France has a very powerful army. Nonetheless, trying to go its own way in moments of difficulty in the international scene can have a very high cost.... The evolution of events seemed to indicate that President Gbago...can taken advantage of the secondary effects of the Bush re-election and subject Chirac to this pulse with the hope that Washington will leave him alone in this mess. In any case, France is risking its prestige in the region, and the U.S. does not turn up its nose to any opportunity to increase its influence in Africa."
"The Little Iraq Of France"
Independent El Mundo concluded (11/8): "This sudden explosion of violence in western Africa...shows the short-comings of the African postcolonial process and the French model, composed of (at the same time) interventionism, paternalism, bribes, and promotion of supposedly 'controllable' leaders, that sometimes, as seen in President Gbago, become rebellious.... If Chirac was consistent with his firm opposition of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, he should be satisfied by giving secure transit to the French citizens that want to abandon the country, and leave any intervention tasks to UN troops. Unless the French president has decided to adhere himself to American theories of preventive war."
SWITZERLAND: "No Secret"
Geneva-based independent French-language Le Temps asserted (11/8): "It is no secret to anyone that the country and its resources--especially cocoa--are controlled by French interests.... The fact that the cynical manipulator Laurent Gbagbo bears overwhelming responsibility for what is happening should not make us forget that the blood and tears being shed today are also the legacy of 50 years of a more than ambiguous relationship."
Independent Geneva-based French-language Tribune De Geneve asked (11/8): "If Ivory Coast is independent, how can we explain France's decision to send regiments to reinforce its 4,000 troops without even consulting its government? Those who call the relationship 'rampant neo-colonialism' are not altogether wrong when they blame some of the present problems...on the nearly blind support Paris gave to the former regime, or when they denounce the survival of a colonial mentality.... They are also justifiably amazed that Paris, always so keen to denounce the American occupation of Iraq, should rule the roost in Abidjan."
QATAR: "Ivory Coast Plunges Towards Catastrophe"
The semi-official English-language Gulf Times declared (11/10): "The Ivory Coast in West Africa was once a beacon of hope for the African continent.... Sadly, in the past decade, economic and political pressures have driven the country into chaos. First President Houphouet-Boigny’s successors have followed a dangerous course, encouraging ethnic rivalry, creating a disastrous split between north and south. The current president, Laurent Gbagbo, was fairly elected to take over after a brief period of military rule but his discriminatory policies sparked a mutiny among northern soldiers in September 2002 which lost him half the country and might have toppled him if the French had not brokered a truce. Effecting division of the country and power-sharing in a unity government does not seem to be an acceptable outcome to President Gbagbo. Neither his troops nor the rebels started disarming when they were meant to.... Last week government forces attacked rebels in the north--and for good measure bombed French peacekeepers, an act that may have been intended to provoke a French withdrawal but which backfired spectacularly when France wiped out the tiny Ivorian air force in response. It seems Gbagbo regarded the ceasefire as an opportunity to regroup and prepare for a decisive attack on his enemies.... South African President Thabo Mbeki has accepted the task of attempting to restore calm and find a long-term solution, which may be an impossible challenge. Meanwhile the destruction of the air force may have limited Gbagbo’s ability to strike his rivals but it has also inflamed anti-French passions among his supporters.... If Gbagbo and his rivals are determined to go to war, little can be done to stop them. But the consequences of an ethnic conflict would be awful. Africa has far more than its fair share of self-inflicted misery. We can only hope that the Ivorians will step back from the abyss."
UAE: "Highly Inflammable Situation"
The expatriate-oriented English-language Gulf Today declared (11/16): "Ivory Coast President Gbagbo's hardline stand on the conflict between government forces and rebels has become a major diplomatic challenge to the African Union (AU). Gbagbo's defiance of the threat of UN sanctions and refusal to respond to peace efforts by South African President Thabo Mbeki are now threatening the stability of Western Africa.... It may take heavy pressure on the hardline president to change his uncompromising stand. But as fear is mounting that the crisis may spread across the volatile borders, the AU may have to use pressure tactics to bring Gbagbo out into the open.... It is now certain that the peace agreement made in July is dead.... The peace deal made in Paris last year involved the formation of a national unity government that would include the rebels and opposition political parties. But Gbagbo's supporters, mainly Christians in the south, opposed the move. Ivory Coast has virtually been divided into loyalist south and rebel north.... The most feared aspect of the clashes is the possible involvement of fighters from neighbouring countries. Since tribal affiliations and communal links cross borders, it is easy for a crisis in one country to spread across the region. Only effective action, instead of long drawn-out debates, can ensure that the West African state does not become another Sierra Leone of death and destruction."
"Attack Amounts To Self-destruction"
The English-language expatriate-oriented Gulf News observed (11/8): "Ivory Coast's fragile but still operational year-old ceasefire was shattered by a government air raid that killed French peacekeepers. This botched, clumsy and bloody military operation (one hesitates to use that word implying as it does a modicum of discipline), has cost the Ivorian government their air force after the French retaliated, has plunged the country into even greater instability and isolated the government internationally. As military operations go, one can safely say that this was one of the most inept. The international community has a stake in the Ivory Coast. There are 10,000 French and UN peacekeeping troops in the country to keep a ceasefire after insurgents took the north following a failed coup in September 2002. This is a crisis that is not developing in isolation, out of sight from the world. It is taking place in the full glare of the UN Security Council spotlight. France is now preparing a resolution that seeks an arms embargo on the Ivory Coast and looks like getting it passed this week. And so, yet again, the world witnesses an African country trapped in a cycle of violence. But Ivory Coast until quite recently was, in many respects, a model country. It was a success story on a continent plagued by corruption and violence. Now it stares into the abyss of chaos. Rampaging mobs are the law of the land. Even the speediest UN resolutions take time to pass and implement. France has got every right and a duty to restore as much order as it can before the UN is able to act. This is not just to protect its endangered citizens but to give Ivorians a chance to save their country before the flames of anarchy spread."
"Rein In Mob Fury"
The English-language expatriate-oriented Gulf Today commented (11/8): "South African President Thabo Mbeki is tasked to urgently defuse the escalating tension in Ivory Coast.... If the chasm between the government and rebels is not resolved quickly, the situation might deteriorate into a bloody civil war. It is commendable, therefore, that the 53-nation African Union was quick in mounting pressure on Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo to call off the current military offensive. Gbagbo has to take the blame for the latest string of incidents that shattered 18 months of truce. The air strikes by his forces, which killed nine French peacekeepers, have resulted in a serious setback to peace efforts.... To protect the French nationals and restore peace, Paris has sent additional troops. It is disturbed by the mob fury targeting its nationals in the main city of Abidjan...reportedly instigated by senior aides of Gbagbo. The airstrikes prompted France to bomb out Ivorian warplanes and cripple its airstrike capability.... The French military pressure and the political efforts of Mbeki, who is credited with resolving several African disputes including those in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and the Comoros, should have a positive impact on the ground. The immediate concern is reining in violence.... What is happening right now is mob violence, which has no place in political reconciliation. It is unfair that the Gbagbo loyalists are accusing French President Jacques Chirac of arming the rebels.... The rebels, who revolted against the government in 2002, have been in virtual control of the northern half of the rich cocoa-growing region.... While Mbeki tackles the issue at the political and diplomatic level France and the UN, which jointly have more than 10,000 troops in the buffer zone between the rebel north and loyalist south, should beef up their troop presence."
JAPAN: "Paris Concerned About Ripple Effect Of Cote D'Ivoire Attacks"
An editorial in liberal Asahi read (11/8): "The government of Jacque Chirac is deeply shocked at mob attacks in Cote D'Ivoire, where French military units and French citizens were targeted. The African state has maintained strong military and economic ties with France since gaining independence in 1960. The attacks come amid renewed diplomatic efforts by the French government to strengthen ties with Africa in response to recent U.S. moves to gain greater influence over resource-rich West African nations. Paris fears that anti-French sentiment in Abidjan and other major cities will spread to other former protectorates in sub-Sahara."
CANADA: "Chirac's Choice"
The conservative National Post opined (11/15): "France's position in Ivory Coast is both tragic and ironic. Since the U.S. began preparing for war in Iraq two years ago, France has been one of the Americans' fiercest critics: French President Jacques Chirac embraced the position that it is better to tolerate the predations of the dictator we knew--Saddam Hussein--than stir up chaos and anti-Western sentiment through military intervention. But with French peacekeepers besieged by violent mobs in Ivory Coast, France is now facing its own accusations of 'neo-colonialism.' Unlike the United States in Iraq, France has not yet embraced a policy of regime change. But that may soon change.... African leaders have been meeting in the Nigerian city of Abuja in an effort to defuse the crisis. However, it seems unlikely a sustainable solution will come out of the negotiations. What is needed now is a decision from Mr. Chirac. The French can cut and run after evacuating their citizens. Or they can stay and bring down Mr. Gbagbo's regime, then help rebuild the country under a new government, even if that means enduring the same charges of hegemony being hurled at the Americans in regard to Iraq. But given their deployment in the shadow of an increasingly hostile regime, what they cannot do is continue clinging to the pretense of neutrality."
VENEZUELA: "Ivory Coast"
Oswaldo Barreto wrote in liberal Tal Cual (11/10): "In this global world, it is more and more difficult for a colony to become a sovereign and independent country, just as it is for the metropolis of a former empire to drop its imperialistic and colonial view in its relations with the other peoples. For thirty years, France had managed to escape from the worst expressions of this problem: tribalism, purity of blood and wars on the one hand; control of the production and commerce and manipulation of power, on the other."
"The War Of Cocoa"
Luis De Lion opined in liberal Tal Cual (11/10): "Chirac's immediate reprisal this Sunday morning to destroy the entire air force of the Ivory Coast shows that colonial blood still runs in the veins of the French government and that France, as a western power, imposes its military presence in a sovereign country. In the end, like the U.S., France does not need to wait for the authorization of the UN to intervene overseas. Paris had better respond clearly and promptly, before the international public opinion discovers its incoherent position on the war in Iraq and the presence of French soldiers in Africa, unless Chirac has decided to support the thesis of the pre-emptive war coined by Washington's neo-conservative hawks."
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