Prince Harry is familiar with the hardships faced by people in Lesotho

Warning: this has absolutely nothing to do with France. But I’ve had a very stressful week and this post is helping.

Yesterday, the BBC reported that Prince Harry was back in Lesotho for some “charity” projects, which is all fine and dandy (I’m not going to get into the trend of celebrities each claiming their little corner of Africa – but you should check out this map). Up until the point where they say:

The prince is familiar with the hardship that many young people in Lesotho have to face.

As means of a quick background, approximately 23% of the population of Lesotho has HIV/AIDS, life expectancy is at 51 years old (some actually say it’s much lower, at 34), and there is a whole movement of people who would prefer it if Lesotho just became part of South Africa because the situation is just so crap. South Africa is understandably reluctant.

So I made this meme:


I feel better already.


Stats from: CIA World Factbook


From my friends over at La Jeune Politique – very interesting article on the French-Qatar relationship and how Qatar may be supporting Islamists in Mali, all the while conducting joint military exercises with France.

La Jeune Politique

French Minister of Defense Jean-Yves Le Drian visited Qatar February 10 for a brief visit of less than twenty-four hours, just a week after President Hollande visited Mali. France’s recent and heightened military intervention in Mali has drawn criticism from Qatar, and Le Drian met with the Crown Prince Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani on behalf of President Hollande to discuss the conflict.

One of the products of the meeting is “Falcon Gulf 2013,” an agreement whereby French military from every branch will journey to Qatar for a joint exercise, which began this past Saturday and will run through the first week of March. According to the French Defense website, “the objectives of integration are ambitious, as all the levels (operational and tactical)” will participate. This joint exercise symbolizes a reinforcement of the relationship between the nations.

The exercise comes at a tenuous time in the French-Qatar relationship. Suspicions…

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Mali analysis round-up (Part 3)

This is Part 3 to a round-up of interesting pieces (some related to France’s intervention in Mali, some not) I’ve found on Mali. Part 1 is available here and Part 2 here.

@MaliDaily also compiled this list of “who to follow on #Mali” on Twitter which is pretty useful to get regular updates on the situation there! Some of the people on the list tweet in French and some in English.

The Africa Sub-Committee of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the US House of Representatives recently held a hearing on Mali. The video transcript and written statements and testimonies are available here.

“Can France restore the magic of northern Mali?” – article by Andy Morgan on the BBC

“Intoxication by information: fighting over facts in Mali” and “Behind Mali’s conflict: myths, realities and unknowns” – blog posts on Bridges from Bamako – they both provide a really good overview of a lot of what’s being said in the news media and by NGOs and provides counter views – in other words, a great overview of the different opinions.

“What’s the way forward for Mali?” – by IRIN News

“Inside the Islamic Emirate of Timbuktu” – article by Harald Doornbos and Jenan Moussa on Foreign Policy – fascinating look into how the extremists functioned in Timbuktu until they were kicked out.

“Security in the Sahel and the West’s Military Fixation” – article by Peter Dorrie in Think Africa Press

“Excerpts from al-Qaida manifesto left behind in Timbuktu” – in the Washington Post

“The ICC might not deter Mali’s rebels – but it might deter the government” – blog post by Mark Kersten on Justice in Conflict

“Tessalit assumes vital importance in Mali’s struggle against Islamist rebels” – article by Afua Hirsch in The Guardian

“Fear returns to Mali amid clashes” – video report on the BBC

France & Cambodia – continued

France has released a short video summarizing the Prime Minister’s (Jean-Marc Ayrault, or JMA as I’ve decided to nickname him) visit to Cambodia to attend the funeral of former King Sihanouk (read this post for background information and some more random thoughts). I tried (multiple times) to embedded the video but apparently I’m not as tech-savvy as I thought I was. In any case, the video is available here: Voyage au Cambodge: l’essentiel – Vidéo Dailymotion.

A few interesting things about the video:

  • The emphasis is on France’s interests in engaging with the region/ASEAN and strengthening links with Cambodia.
  • JMA mentions that France is the only Western country to have been invited to the funeral – but mentions that in the context of France wanting to engage with the region – as if that was why France was invited and not because it’s the former colonial power ….
  • The few shots of French-funded projects are basically like a commercial for French foreign aid.
  • Aside from shots of the funeral clearly gleaned from Cambodian state TV (you can hear Khmer in the background), there’s almost no talk of King Sihanouk, his legacy, his relationship with France, etc. I know it’s a touchy subject but I would have expected JMA’s visit on this occasion to … well … talk about the occasion a bit more.

Nevertheless, the Cambodia Daily (update 8 Feb 2013: available here) is reporting that JMA raised human rights issues during his meeting with Cambodian PM Hun Sen – specifically bringing up the cases of Sam Rainsy and Mam Sonando! He apparently also discussed the case of Daniel Laine, a French journalist (who is still in France) who convicted on charges of sex trafficking after having made a documentary on the sex trade in Cambodia and sentenced to 7 years in prison, in a case widely thought to be baseless.

According to the Cambodia Daily, JMA “stressed the French nationality of the three men, and told Mr. Hun Sen that France was awaiting ‘positive future developments’ regarding the cases.”

Of course, Information Minister and Cambodian government spokesman Khieu Kanharith responded, saying that:

For the government, these issues are under the jurisdiction of the courts and have nothing to do with politics or with French nationality. [Sam Rainsy and Mam Sonando] were accused of criminal offenses, not involving political activity or journalistic work.

It would be nice to see France raising human rights concerns with Cambodia on a more regular basis and not just when it concerns individuals with French citizenship – but at least this is a step in a right direction.

Update 8 Feb 2013: there’s another video available where JMA talks a bit more about the French-Cambodia relationship and colonialism.

Mali analysis round-up (Part 2)

This is part 2 to a round-up of interesting pieces (some related to France’s intervention in Mali, some not) I’ve found on Mali. Part 1 is available here.


“Crisis in Mali having far-reaching impact on rest of West Africa, warns UN envoy” – UN article

“Guide to the Crisis in Mali: Part 1” and “Part 2” – by Sasha Papazoff in La Jeune Politique

“Mali is not a Stan” – article by Laura Seay in Foreign Policy (very good response to the many pundits, especially in the US, who’ve said that Mali was going to become France’s Afghanistan)

“In Search of Monsters” – article by Stephen W Smith in the London Review of Books

“Crisis in Mali” – report by Alexis Arrieff for the Congressional Research Service (interesting in that it provides information to US Congressional offices and will impact US policy)

On the Military Intervention

“In Mali, military intervention is not enough” – article by Kofi Annan in The Guardian

“Mali Exposes Flaws in West’s Security Plans” – article by Adam Entous, Julian E Barnes and Drew Hinshaw for the Wall Street Journal (very interesting piece of what’s really going between the French and the Americans)

“French Military Intervention in Mali: It’s Legal but… Why? Part II: Consent and UNSC Authorisation” – by Theodore Christakis and Karine Bannelier on the Blog of the European Journal of International Law

On the Roots of the Conflict

“Jihad in Africa: The danger in the desert” – article in The Economist (on terrorism in Algeria and the Mali crisis)

“Analysis: The dynamics of inter-communal violence in Mali” – by IRIN News

On Human Rights

“Mali: First assessment of the human rights situation after three week conflict”Amnesty International briefing note

“Mali: Human Rights and Humanitarian Snapshot” – Overview of displacement and pressing human rights issues on MapBox

“Untold Stories from the Conflict in Mali” [videos] – by Christoph Koettl on the blog

On the ICC Case

“Prosecuting crimes against cultural property in Northern Mali: Why it Matters” – blog post by Jelia Sane on Justice in Conflict (an oldie but goodie)

“Cash-Strapped ICC Takes on Mali” – analysis by IRIN News

“Timbuktu’s Cultural Treasures & the ICC” – blog post by Kimberly J Curtis on the Foreign Policy Association blog

On Cambodia, the Death of a King and France

Apologies in advance for what is more a random set of thoughts stringed together rather than a proper blog post with an overarching point …

Back in October 2012, former King Norodom Sihanouk passed away in Beijing at 89 years old. King Sihanouk’s rule – which lasted decades and is rather controversial – is summarized well by the New York Times:

King Sihanouk was crowned in 1941, when Franklin D. Roosevelt was president, and held on to some form of power for the next 60-plus years. He served as monarch, prime minister, figurehead of the Communist revolution, leader in exile, and once again as monarch until he abdicated in 2004. He handed the crown to one of his sons, Norodom Sihamoni, after which he was known as the retired king, or the king-father.

He survived colonial wars, the Khmer Rouge and the intrigues of the cold war, but his last years were marked by expressions of melancholy, and he complained often about the poverty and abuses of what he called “my poor nation.”

Alternately charming and ruthless, he dazzled world leaders with his political wit and, in the process, raised the stature of his small Southeast Asian nation. He won independence for Cambodia from the French colonial rulers in 1953, using diplomacy and repression to outmaneuver his domestic rivals but without resorting to war, as his neighbors in Vietnam had done.

After a three-month mourning period, the funeral is now taking place on Monday (February 4th). Between 1 and 2 million people are expected in Phnom Penh. This morning (Friday), the King’s body was moved from the Royal Palace to the, where he will be cremated on Monday. There had been talk that there would be elephants in the procession but that turned out to be just a rumor. I for one avoided the procession given Cambodia’s poor record with crowd control. For those of us missing out, the Cambodia Daily is providing pretty good coverage. There’s also some good photos on CNN.

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