French Parliament votes to extend Mali mission

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:

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2 must-watch videos: forced evictions in Cambodia & the road to the ATT

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.

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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!

~Juliette

CAR analysis round-up

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.

General

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

CAR unlikely to be a new battlefield between France and South Africa

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.”

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The situation in CAR in regional and historical context

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.

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Of note: French Communist Party MP Andre Chassaigne telling journalists “France, to an as-yet unknown extent, is responsible for this assassination … I believe that France, which today claims to behave differently towards Africa under what I personally would call a virtuous circle, must tell the truth.” Chassaigne will be pressing the French National Assembly to create a commission of inquiry into Thomas Sankara’s assassination in Burkina Faso in 1987.

Africa is a Country (Old Site)


Burkina Faso’s president, Blaise Compaoré (that’s him above posing in between Michelle and Barack Obama at the UN a few years ago), is receiving some mixed PR right now. The Telegraph in the UK has said that even with a murky past, Compaoré may be shaping up to be West Africa’s chief negotiator in regional conflicts. Some sources remain non-plussed. Peter Dorrie argues in African Arguments that Compaoré may be helping to “resolve” conflicts that he’s already benefitted from. Some in France, however, are hoping to stir this up even more. 

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Mali analysis round-up (Part 4)

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.

General

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

Boko Haram: getting involved beyond Francophone Africa?

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.

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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:

35521416

I feel better already.

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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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