Just as the conflict in Côte d’Ivoire was starting, i.e when rebel forces attacked the legitimate government from the North, writer and translator Nidra Poller wrote an article treating of the Forces Nouvelles, the rebel group from Northern Cote d’Ivoire and the thin line France walks on by spporting them, which for some reasons is not available online today. Thanks to an investigative partnership organised by WikiLeaks, a copy of that is made available today. It reads:
Qu’est-ce que c’est que cette histoire ? France, the France of Jacques Chirac, chief of the peacemakers, is in a mano a mano fight with Laurent Gbagbo, democratically elected president of Côte d’Ivoire. The feud has been brewing for years. And I couldn’t help siding with Gbagbo (Yamoussoukro mon amour, http://www.menapress.com February 2003). because we hung around together in the old days when he dressed in turtle neck sweaters and hid out from the wrath of Houphoët-Boigny, l’homme providentiel, the kind of stable leader favored by entrenched French interests.
So what’s going on now and what does it have to do with turmoil in the Middle East?
There is something more satisfying than belly laughing to see the French army firing into angry crowds. Use of excessive force, remember? There is something nobler than gloating at the gloaters. Whatever privileges they may have enjoyed in the waning years of neo-colonialism, the French people living in Côte d’Ivoire don’t deserve to be stripped clean of all their belongings, beaten up, scared to death, and chased away like rats. There is much to be learned from this upshot of a situation that curiously mirrors the issues involved in the ever widening French-American rift.
The Côte d’Ivoire fiasco is not an exotic anecdote, it is the underside of the lofty scolding aimed at America and Israel, France’s arch enemies. We have been told that 9/11 was our fault, the Al Aqsa intifada was our fault, the suicide-homicide bombings are just what the Israelis ordered, the war in Iraq is a scandalous exploit in neo-neo-colonialism, the quagmire is our fault and well-deserved. We have been accused of not respecting international law, the Geneva Convention, the rights of man, and the rules of etiquette.
What are we really guilty of in those Gallic eyes? Manque de savoir faire? No. Something worse. We are guilty of not being French. And, not being French, of not letting the French run the show.
Now here’s a show that’s all for the show-offs and look at what they’ve done. A real brawl, mayhem, mass exodus, a nasty mess. The French base on the “zone of confidence” line that divided the country was bombed and nine soldiers killed; the French lashed out, destroying all of President Gbagbo’s planes; this riled up the population, the population turned its fury on French residents, the French sent in reinforcements, shot into crowds, killing and wounding civilians.and now they are cutting and running. Isn’t that a sorry sight?
But shame and defeat do not put an end to pontificating. The ultimate aim, we are told, is to restore order, get back to the negotiating table, and force everyone to really truly apply les Accords de Marcoussis, a model French peace agreement. When armed rebels attempted a coup d’état in 2002, France cheated on its treaty obligations to defend the democratically elected government and instead pressured Laurent Gbagbo to make concessions to the rebels. The rebels took control in the north, the country was divided, the atmosphere degenerated, the economy deteriorated and French public opinion was kept in the dark while attention was focused on the misdeeds of Bush and Sharon. From time to time a stingy piece of news, twisted to serve the interests of the Quai d’Orsay, was dropped on the wires. The rebels were called the ex-rebels, even as they threatened to march on Abidjan. Then they became les Forces nouvelles. Aint that neat? The New Forces. A breath of fresh air from the North. African journalists were reporting that Ghadafi was behind the rebellion. A bit of Islam to spice up les Forces Nouvelles. Obviously they weren’t financed by Burkina
Fasso, one of the poorest countries in Africa.
Guillaume Soro, the rebel chief, was interviewed with the same exaggerated respect French journalists extend to Hamas leaders. He spoke like an imbecile or a crackhead or both but that didn’t put a pinch in his reputation. Everything had to be symmetrical: Nobody knew how to pronounce Laurent’s name (it’s Babo, not Gebagebo), no one knew he was a historian and an author. He was the bad guy and the rebel chief had to be treated like he just stepped out of the Sorbonne.
But this was not enough to keep the peace. January 2003: enter the famous Accords de Marcoussis. That’s the French touch in diplomacy. Conflict must be solved ceremoniously in the gold encrusted salons of pompous government mansions in Paris or, in the case of Marcoussis, in magnificent châteaux. (You see why Camp David had to fail?) Photo ops from beginning to end. Smiles with clothespins at each corner. Fancy cars driving up, pulling away. A semblance of discussion and, under the table, a harsh settlement imposed by the one with the upper hand.
Les Accords de Marcoussis were a bitter pill that no self-respecting president could swallow. Whatever legitimate grievances may be stirring in the heart of Ivorian society, they could not be solved by bringing the rebels into the government. That’s not a peace agreement, it’s a coup d’état. And that’s what was pushed down Gbagbo’s throat: not only was he forced to agree to bring the rebels into his government, he had to give them the two ministries of armed force–Defense and the Interior.
Sound familiar? This is the same diplomacy that insists on including Hamas, Hizbullah and other terrorist organizations in Israel-Palestine peace talks and eventual Palestinian governments. This is the wannabe world power that wants to invite the Iraqi “résistants” to the international conference on the future of Iraq. This is the reasoning behind the peace movements that were all the rage in the spring of 2003. What do you do with bullies? Make them chief of police!
Today, when French politics is steeped in unseemly passions and truth is eaten away by the acid of hatred, government and media work hand in hand to assassinate their chosen prey. George W. Bush and Ariel Sharon can’t be
shaken by the vicious hatred poured over their heads. Even Tony Blair resists. But Laurent Gbagbo is African. When he made a last ditch effort to reunite his divided country it triggered an explosion of acting-out that reveals the hypocrisy of French peace mongering.
Under the terms of the Marcoussis Road Map, the rebels were supposed to disarm. It didn’t happen. Gbagbo’s air force attacked their stronghold. And the next day-willfully or accidentally-bombed a French airbase, killing 9 soldiers and wounding dozens. Hell hath no fury.
Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin (quoted in Le Monde 10 November 2004) declared: you don’t kill French soldiers without expecting instant retaliation. Ah bon? I thought Israel was wrong and damned and doomed because its soldiers fired when fired upon. And the United States with that haw-ri-bul cowboy, thinking that a few thousand 9/11 deaths could excuse a wild adventure in Afghanistan and a sandy Vietnam in Iraq? The jihadis shouldn’t expect instant retaliation? As for the French civilians now escaping with their lives, the PM explains that they are leaving voluntarily.
Which doesn’t mean that crazed mobs wielding machetes are to be admired. Neither are murderous shebabs. Or jihadi beheaders. And, come to think of it, comatose terrorists pompously received as heads of state.
However, this mayhem could be put to a good cause if the sight of the Ivorian population bearing down on the last remnants of French interests in Africa could break down the wall of rhetoric that imprisons French society. According to Ivorian sources 64 demonstrators were killed and over a thousand wounded in Abidjan in the past few days. How were these demonstrators killed? By whom? French media report the casualty toll with disembodied indifference. The first casualties of the so-called al Aqsa Intifada died repeatedly, grotesquely, bloodily in the French press. Their death lived and breathed for days, for months, to this day. The dead and injured Palestinian rioters of the year 2000 were brandished to justify atrocities against Israeli civilians. They justified the refusal of the late Arafat to negotiate, to clamp down on terrorists, to stop financing terrorist attacks.
French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier calls the destruction of the lilliputian Ivorian air force “self defense.” When the IDF destroys the home of a suicide-homicide bomber, they are accused of war crimes and worse. This is the Michel Barnier who insisted on visiting Yasser Arafat on his first visit to the Middle East as FM. He made a second trip to see Ariel Sharon and declare that Israel must negotiate with Yasser Arafat, the legitimate leader of the Palestinian people; there can be no peace without negotiation, no negotiation without Yasser Arafat.
This is the true face of a French government that was willing to play along with the half-dazed half-Islamic rebels who threatened to overthrow the Ivorian government, and now shoots at the enraged Ivorians revolting against the last remnants of what they call the French Occupation. These are the methods of a French government that has practically cut its ties with the United States–accused of pushing its weight around in the Middle East–and prefers to cut deals with knife wielders wrapped in keffieh.
As dazed French citizens fleeing the Ivory Coast landed at Roissy airport with nothing but the clothes on their backs, the terrorist Yasser Arafat was given a royal sendoff at Villacoublay. Is it any wonder that the nationalists in Abidjan waved the Star Spangled Banner? And the frenzied masses crowded into the Mouqata for the burial of the arch-terrorist brandished, side by side with the Palestinian, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad flags, the flag of la République française.
C’est la honte.
A second article in French can be read here.
DISCLAIMER: This post was written as a result of an investigative partnership organised by WikiLeaks. All the data referred to in this post have been obtained by WikiLeaks.