The World Cup – or when people accidentally become stupid and racist

Oh the World Cup. I won’t lie – I’m a big fan of this every-four-year ritual of rooting for men kicking around a ball and feeling a renewed sense of national pride (or national embarrassment, when the French team goes on strike again).

What I’m not a big fan however, is that, apparently, it’s also  a time for many people to lose all common sense and become racist.

First in line, Delta Airlines, via Twitter, celebrated the US’s win over Ghana with this awesome graphic:

Delta Tweet

via BuzzFeed

Lovely photograph of that giraffe – they might have wanted to google whether or not there were actually giraffes in Ghana first. Hint: there aren’t.

Then we have the Guardian’s “Tech” twitter account:

via Africa is a Country

via Africa is a Country

Apparently no one at the Guardian saw how that tweet could go wrong …

And then we have my all-time favorite thus far: Global Post’s masterpiece article, entitled “Here’s what World Cup teams would look like if immigrants weren’t allowed to play.” Many people have posted on Facebook and other social media as this great, let’s highlight how people who are anti-immigrant are stupid article, but if you stop and think about it for just 2 seconds … well frankly, it’s beyond shocking. Here’s why.

First off, “broadly defining “foreigner” as anyone with at least one foreign-born parent,” which the author says in the introduction, is wrong. There’s no other way to put it. The author then goes on and makes it worse by equating that definition of foreigners with “Immigrants” (with the article’s title), which is not only wrong but extremely dangerous. Broadly and vaguely defining “immigrants” and “foreigners” is exactly what extreme rights wings party do to justify their xenophobic policies.

The French team, minus "immigrants," according to the Global Post

The French team, minus “immigrants,” according to the Global Post

Speaking with regards to the French team, the majority of the players labelled as “immigrants” in the article were born in France (which, by the way, includes Martinique) and thus are not immigrants. The only 2 who were not born in France are Patrice Evra (who was born in Dakar, Senegal, and came to France at the age of 3) and Rio Mavuba (who was born on a boat in international waters and apparently didn’t have a nationality at birth). All others were born in France and, I will repeat this, are not immigrants.

Rather than highlighting the idiocy of those who want to kick immigrants out, this article perpetuates the stigmatization of individuals because one of their parents was born in a different country. It labels someone as “immigrant” not because they have themselves immigrated anywhere, but because one of their parents did. There is enough existing racism against football players who have different names and different skin colors without needing this article to wrongly label them as immigrants.

I’m sure there are many more examples out there of stupidity and racism rolled all into one but frankly, I don’t want to go out looking for them.


On the [il]legality of a military intervention in Syria

Since reports started coming out that the Syrian army was using chemical weapons, it’s becoming increasingly likely that there will be some kind of military intervention in Syria by the US, with support from the UK and France, maybe as soon as tomorrow (Thursday). For some background on the alleged chemical attacks and the on-going situation, the BBC has a good overview here. There is also a very useful article outlining military options.

I won’t reiterate what is being said very eloquently elsewhere, so instead, here’s a round-up of various analyses of the legality (or illegality) of a potential military/humanitarian intervention in Syria by the US, the UK and/or France, without UN Security Council approval.

The Legality of a Syrian Military Intervention: Russia, France, and the UK Weigh In” – post by Julian Ku on Opinio Juris

It sounds like the UK and France are both going to need to come up with some international law theory to justify their support for an attack, and the UK seems interested in the “humanitarian intervention” justification.  If the U.S. goes along with this, it would be interesting to see if the “invisible college of international lawyers” will endorse this legal theory.

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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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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

France’s UPR (Part II)

A few days ago, I blogged (here) about France’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which took place on the 21st, and the implications for and insight into its foreign relations. The unedited, draft report from that UPR is now available publically here. France has until the 23rd Session of the Human Rights Council in June 2013 to provide responses, which will make for a much more interesting analysis, but in the meantime, here’s a few highlights and initial thoughts.

During the “interactive dialogue” portion of the UPR, 84 states made statements, which are summarized in the draft report. The draft report also includes 165 recommendations. Although a lot of the recommendations repeat each other, it’s quite insightful to see which issues are most commented upon, as well as which countries care about which issues. Building on the last post I wrote on this topic, I’ve focused on the recommendations related to discrimination, minority rights and religious freedom below.

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Mali analysis round-up

There’s been some very interesting pieces written about Mali in the past few weeks which I wanted to share as I’ve found them very useful in understanding the current situation. I originally wanted to keep this to analytical pieces related to France’s involvement in Mali but I thought expanding it to wider issues and themes might be useful. I’ll update this as I find more stuff. Please feel free to send links my way (through the comments here or on the contact page)!


Chronology of events (in French) by Radio France International (not really an analytical piece but a very useful resource

“France in Mali: the End of the Fairytale” – blog post by Gregory Mann on Africa is a Country

“On Intervention, Popularity and Colonialism in Mali” – blog post by Alex Thurston on Sahel Blog

“Mali, dynamic of war” – blog post by Paul Rogers on Open Democracy

“French Military Intervention in Mali: It’s Legal but … Why? Part I” – blog post by Theodore Christakis and Karine Bannelier on the blog of the European Journal of International Law

On the ICC referral

ICC, Office of the Prosecutor, “Situation in Mali – Article 53(1) Report”

“Mali and the ICC: what lessons can be learned from previous investigations?” in The Guardian

“Random Comments on the Mali Self-Referral to the ICC” – blog post on Spreading the Jam

“Is the International Criminal Court Following the Flag in Mali” – blog post on Political Violence @ a Glance

On human rights

“Intervention in Mali: Human Rights First?” – blog post by Andrew Jillions on Justice in Conflict

Letter to French President Francois Hollande on situation in Mali – from Human Rights Watch

“Mali: Civilians Bear the Brunt of the Conflict” – report from Amnesty International (from last year but provides a good overview nonetheless)

On US-French cooperation in Mali

“Thinking Through the Malian Thicket” – blog post by Deborah Pearlstein on Opinio Juris on the legality (international and domestic) of potential US involvement in Mali.

On criticism of the French intervention in Mali

“France Faces Criticism over Malian Intervention as Humanitarian Questions Arise” – blog post/news story by Sasha Papazoff on La Jeune Politique

France & Mali: old friends?

There’s been little discussion of French-Mali relations prior to the current conflict (by that I mean the past few months …) so I figured this might make for a good first post. This is a really brief overview and not an in-depth analysis but I do think it is useful to put things into perspective.

A little bit of background …

First a few facts. Mali gained independence from France in 1960. Early relations between France and Mali are often discussed in the context of Mali’s 1962 decision to opt out of the Franc Zone (a cornerstone of France’s post-colonial policy in Africa – more on that in a later post, I promise), which is seen by some to have engendered many of the country’s subsequent economic and financial difficulties. This was in large part due to post-independence President Modibo Keita’s socialist-leaning economic policy. Mali signed on the Franc Zone later, in 1967, but under an agreement that saw the Malian franc devalued by 50%. Full integration of Mali into the UEMOA (Union Économique et Monétaire Ouest Africaine, “West African Economic and Monetary Union”) did not happen until 1984.

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