Friday, February 21, 2003

French consistency
Not only do the French want to coddle the Baghdad tyrant, but tyrants in Africa receive free passes as well. Just this week, France played host to an African conference in Paris. Leaving aside France's horrendous colonial past and continued colonizer mentality (see Ivory Coast) toward their former colonies, the real outrage is the presence of Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. Not only has Mugabe dispossessed white farmers of their land, but he has allotted that land to his political cronies, family and friends. Mugabe and his minions have bludgeoned political opponents, rigged elections and driven what was one of Africa's greatest farming nation into one in which millions are suffering from starvation. Mugabe has systematically squelched opposition through force, but also by denying food aid to areas of the country where the opposition party enjoys support.

As a result, the EU has imposed economic sanctions, frozen assets and blocked travel to Europe by Mugabe and his ministers. But, of course, France saw fit to seek a waiver and invite the Thug to Paris for their petit conference. If one is to believe Mr. Chirac, it was an opportunity to confront Mugabe face to face. But was it really anything more that a tea and croissant session intended to cement the two countries ties in order for France to exploit the natural resources of Zimbabwe?

This is from a Zimbabwean-
"The crafty, amoral, utterly cynical French government, on the other hand, has the confused Mugabe playing right into their hands.

Sore at being seen to be marginalised in big league world affairs by the Americans and the British, they will use any opportunity to try to show independence of them in their actions, especially when all it costs them is rubbing the inflated egos of Third World tyrants for a couple of days by hosting them at a sumptuous banquet, and letting them espouse their pet theories before an international audience."

With France's international power crumbling under the tide of US hegemony, Chirac has turned to Africa in an attempt to flex French muscle. Chirac and France have become so desperate to exert power anywhere, that the abysmal human rights records of many of these African despots are of no consequence. As long as France can play the tune, it doesn't seem to matter who the dancers are. But Chirac is playing a dangerous game, one which could ultimately destory what little credibility France still has in the international community. As noted here in the Guardian,Chirac "has made much of a 'new partnership' between Europe and Africa, but critics say France should stop playing host to leaders who in some cases are under investigation by European and international courts for crimes including torture and genocide.

The Federation of Human Rights Leagues said the summit could achieve little while Paris turned a blind eye to widespread human rights and democratic abuses in countries such as Zimbabwe, Mauritania, Tunisia, Congo and the Central African Republic.

'I suppose the lunches and dinners will give these leaders an opportunity to drink to the health of populations that are being massacred," said the group's president, Patrick Baudoin. Another activist, Dobian Assingar, said France "must stop laying out the red carpet for criminals'. "


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