Friday, January 27, 2006

France's little PR problem

Here is something that you won't see on CBS or the front cover of the Washington Post.
Under somewhat dubious circumstances, France sent troops to its former West African colony in September 2002 after a coup attempt against president Laurent Gbagbo during which rebel forces won control of the northern part of the country, despite the reluctance of the Ivorians to accept them, wanting a neutral force.

This is only the latest episode in the unhappy relations between France and the Ivory Coast. This West African country, having been a French colony since 1893, was formally made independent in 1960, although its economic assets and major businesses have since remained largely under French control. The French own 45 per cent of the land and, curiously, the buildings of the Presidency of the Republic and of the Ivorian National assembly are subject to leases concluded with the French.

Resentment of French "neocolonialism" has been behind much of the political unrest in the country, which took a turn for the worst last November when the Ivorian air force bombarded a French base at Bouaké, killing nine French soldiers, after president Gbagbo had accused the French of siding with the rebel forces in an attempt to depose him.

The French army had already fired without warning on unarmed Gbagboist demonstrators in November 2003, seriously wounding three of them and then, on direct orders from Chirac, France responded in what was seen at the time as a gross over-reaction - by destroying the country's entire air force, sparking riots in Abidjan. Some 70 Ivorians were killed and over 1,000 injured by French troops firing on unarmed crowds. In a move which further infuriated the Ivorians, the French chief of the general staff dismissed claims of a "massacre", only admitting that his troops might have "wounded or killed a few people", while "showing very great calm and complete control of the violence."
I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Hat tip EU Referendum.

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