Another French front in Africa

Published on 5 April 2011 at 10:29

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"France goes to war," announces the front page ofLibération, in the wake of intervention by the 1,500-strong French Licorne (Unicorn) force in Ivory Coast. In response "to a request from the UN," on 4 April, helicopters from the French air force and and the UNOCI mission in the country bombarded several positions manned by forces loyal to outgoing president Laurent Gbagbo, who has refused to hand over power to his rival, Alassane Ouattara, the internationally acknowledged winner of the 2010 election in the country. "This intervention jointly conducted by the UN and the former colonial [Ivory Coast became independent in 1960] is without a doubt the first of its kind since the end of the colonial period," writes Libération.

The newspaper notes that justification for the operation has been provided by Resolution 1975, adoped by the UN Security Council at the end of March. “Although President Sarkozy is unwilling to admit it, France has taken sides and is trying to unseat Gaddafi and et Gbagbo by force,” writes Libé. The daily goes on to argue that even if these operations are motivated by humanitarian concerns, there is no denying that “Sarkozy has involved France in two dangerous missions.” It also wonders “why this desire to protect civilians was not sufficient to prevent the massacre in Duekoue, in the west of the country which was apparently perpetrated by forces loyal to Ouattara.” The left-wing daily concludes that the populations in Libya and Ivory Coast are not likely to forget the fact that “government opponents drove to power in trucks belonging to a foreign army.”

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