Yesterday, Monday April 22nd, 2013, the French Parliament voted to extend the French military mission in Mali, Operation Serval. Under Article 35 of the French Constitution, the government is required to submit requests to extend military interventions beyond four months to the Parliament, which then votes on the request. The Senate voted in favor 326 to 0 and the National Assembly, 342 to 0.
As part of the debate in the Senate, a report, dated April 16th, prepared by Jean-Pierre Chevenement and Gérard Larcher on behalf of the Foreign Affairs Committee, was introduced into the record. The 135-page report (which is only available in French as far as I can tell) argues that a continued French military presence in Mali is necessary for the time being, based on a number of concerns:
Directed by Christine Chansou and Vincent Trintignant-Corneau, “Even a Bird Needs a Nest” (or “Même un oiseau a besoin de son nid” in French) won the prize for best documentary at the 35th Annual Films de Femmes Festival. The documentary focuses on Boeung Kak Lake and the activism of women like Tep Vanny – who by the way just won the 2013 Vital Voices Award!
Here’s to hoping French politicians are paying attention to what’s going on in Cambodia …
ps: props to Keo Chan on Khmeropean for writing about this first.
Just a few days ago, the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) was adopted by the UN General Assembly. Amnesty International produced a video highlighting the Control Arms campaign that helped us get here. The ATT has been a long-time coming and I think there’s a lot to be learnt from that campaign for similar efforts in the future.
Happy International Day of Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action!
There’s unfortunately not a whole lot of in-depth analysis being written (at least in English) on the situation in CAR (with the exception of the South African media). But for those interested, here’s a few pieces that provide some good background and updates on what’s happening in CAR these days.
Alex Thurston posted a good round-up on Sahel Blog on March 26th.
“CAR: How Bozize lost his piece of Africa” – article by David Smith in the Mail and Guardian
Security Council Press Statement on Central African Republic (25 March 2013)
Statement by EU High Representative Catherine Ashton on the situation in the Central African Republic (25 March 2013)
On the Seleka Rebels
“Timeline: Seleka alliance – what is it? and what were the events that lead to its taking of Bangui?” – post by Katharine Fortin on Armed Groups and International Law
“6 crazy facts about the rebel leader who just took over the Central African Republic” – by Max Fisher in the Washington Post
“Failure Has Many Fathers: The Coup in Central African Republic” – blog post by Thibaud Lesueur and Thierry Vircoulon on the blog of the International Crisis Group, the African Peacebuilding Agenda
On the South African operations in CAR
“South African counter-attack against Central African Republic rebels would be ‘complete madness’” – article by Daniel Howden in The Independent
“CAR deployment and SA democracy: Can Zuma be held to account?” – analysis by Ranjeni Munusamy in the Daily Maverick
On the Implications at the ICC
“Trust Fund for Victims suspends its activities in the Central African Republic” – ICC Press Release
“ICC prosecutor warns as Central African rebels advance” – AFP report
On Human Rights and the Humanitarian Impact
“CAR coup comes amid worsening humanitarian crisis” – IRIN report
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) – Central African Republic Humanitarian Bulletin (28 March 2013)
“2 million children now affected by conflict and insecurity” – UNICEF report
In early January, an IRIN analytical piece reported that South Africa’s deployment of South African National Defense Forces (SANDF) troops in the Central African Republic (CAR) was seen by some “not simply as an effort to assist CAR’s army but also as a move to counter French military influence in the region.” South Africa’s involvement in CAR, the argument goes, is part of South Africa’s intention of supporting “African solutions to African problems.”
For a few days now, worrying reports have come out of the Central African Republic (CAR) regarding advances by rebels. With substantial interests in the stability of the CAR (see more below), France called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on Wednesday, March 20th. In a statement issued the same day, the UN Security Council closed with the following:
The members of the Security Council expressed serious concerns at reports of human rights violations and abuses, in particular reports on the targeting of persons belonging to ethnic minorities and illegal detentions, and at the continued violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, including recruitment and use of children in armed conflict and sexual and gender-based violence. They emphasized that such activities must cease immediately and that those responsible for such violations and abuses should be held accountable.
At the time of writing, reports are coming in that the rebels – known as the Seleka rebel coalition – have entered Bangui, the capital, last night (Saturday), after fighting with Chadian and South African troops, and may have even taken the Presidential palace. It is also being reported that France has sent an additional 150 troops to help keep control over the airport in Bangui, where 250 troops were already stationed.
While I’m not an expert of the Seleka rebel coalition – and there are plenty of news stories and analytical pieces floating around that can explain it very well – I thought it would be interesting to discuss the regional and historical context (see below) for CAR’s current predicament, as well as clarify some of the military aspects which are being referenced to. A lot of the news pieces I’ve seen so far seem to say a lot, without going into details and I find them quite confusing. So here we go.
This is Part 4 to a round-up of interesting pieces that are related to the situation in Mali. Most aren’t directly related to France specifically but given the centrality of the Mali intervention in French foreign policy at the moment, it’s all relevant. Part 1 is available here, Part 2 here and Part 3 here.
The Atlantic Council has a good collection of resources (publications, posts, external resources, etc) here.
“When the Jihad Came to Mali” – first-hand account by Joshua Hammer in the New York Review of Books
“Understanding Mali’s ‘Tuareg Problem'” – blog post on Bridges from Bamako
On the Long-Term & Reconstruction
“The remaking of Mali” – article by Pietro Musili and Patrick Smith in the Africa Report (unfortunately, you can’t read the whole thing without a subscription)
“How to tackle Mali’s crisis in the long term” – analysis by IRIN News
“For Progress in Mali and the Sahel, Local Governance Cannot Be Ignored” – by Mireille Affa’a-Mindzie on the Global Observatory
On the Human Impact
“Mali conflict leaves dangerous legacy for children” – video on BBC News
“The returns challenge in Mali” – analysis by IRIN News (on the challenges with repatriating and reintegrating refugees from Mali)
On Military Intervention & Peacekeeping
“Tuareg rebels ask ICC to probe Mali army ‘crimes'” – AFP wire
“French Officials Warn ‘Success’ in Mali Won’t End Islamist Threat” – article by Bruce Crumley in Time Magazine
“Stablising northern Mali: different approaches to peace operations” – analysis by Lori-Anne Théroux-Bénoni for the Institute for Security Studies
“Mali’s Peacekeeping Mission: Full-Fledged Behemoth, or Have Lessons Been Learned?” – by Arthur Boutellis on the Global Observatory
Response from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs to accusations by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights against the Malian army
On February 19th, a French family of 7 was kidnapped in the north of Cameroon, by the Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram. The case has drawn a significant amount of international attention and the French, Cameroonian and Nigerian governments are all taking active steps towards finding them. The fact that 4 of the 7 are children is certainly putting the pressure on.
French Minister of Foreign Affairs Laurent Fabius is off to Nigeria and Cameroon this week to meet with both presidents (I can’t find the official itinerary on the Ministry’s website but he tweeted it last week). So here’s a bit of background/personal analysis.
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