France and Ivory Coast

Istvan Simon writes about the flare up of fighting  in the Ivory Coast: Nine French peace keepers and an American civilian were killed by renewed warfare in an airstrike.  From an AP report entitled "France retaliates in Ivory Coast" we learn that  French troops clashed with soldiers and angry mobs after the strike by Ivory Coast warplanes at Brobo. France hit back destroying two Soviet-made jets used in the bombing and three helicopter gunships. When France retaliated, Mob violence erupted in Abidjan, with cries of "French Go Home".  The UN Security Council demanded an immediate cessation of military actions,  and emphasized that French forces were authorized to use "all necessary means" to keep the peace.  (Apparently, we have a "legal war" here, for the international lawyers amongst us.)

The civil war in the Ivory Coast began in 2002. The northern part of the country is held by rebels,  and  hard-liners in the Ivory Coast military vowed to retake the territory held by the rebels. Many in the south of the Ivory Coast apparently resent the French, whom they accuse of being pro-rebel.  the French have 4000 troops there, and a
separate peace-keeping U.N. force numbers about 6000. I found the following quote from the article  particularly
noteworthy: " A French defense ministry spokesman said on condition of anonymity that the United States have shown "great understanding about France's concerns in the Ivory Coast".  "

The parallels between the French position in the Ivory Coast  and the American one in Iraq are obvious.  I am not against the French actions in the Ivory Coast. In the absence of further information about what really goes on there, I am neutral on the French intervention.  I note merely the irony of the American understanding of the French actions, in light of the usual lack of reciprocity from the French, which I personally find offensive and repulsive. I also note that irrespective of  what " International Law"  might say about the conflict, the feelings of at least part of the people of the Ivory Coast seem to be  very much against it.

RH: The implications of this are widespread  The Ivory Coast ia an important part of  la framcophonie, a French-speaking group of nations led by Paris.  The group now has only a nominal existence.  If the French are supporting the Muslim north, it is because France and Germany are preparing to move into Arab world once the US leaves Iraq. The reaction of France to the victory of Bush is that Europe must unite against the US; I do not take too seriously the statement by the French defense ministry spokesman.  Meanwhile a large delegation from the Arab League, including its secretary general, is visiting Berlin at the invitation of the German government.  All seems to be sweetness and light. Spain is doing its part.  Its socialist government has hosted Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, and it has persuaded Fidel Castro to release jailed dissidents. The attempts to attract Venezuela and Cuba into the Spanish sphere are part of Spain's drive to promote the Ibero-American Union, which has just held a meeting in Costa Rica (in what Americans call their backyard). It was literally an earth-shaking meeting. A 6 degree earthquake may have been a new experience for King Juan Carlos and  Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.

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Ronald Hilton 2004


last updated: December 5, 2004