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France Says Its Troops in CAR Have No Economic Aspect, Power Agrees

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 5 -- After the UN Security Council adopted the French-drafted resolution on Central African Republic 15-0 on Thursday morning, France's Permanent Representative Gerard Araud came out and said the Council was finally shouldering its responsibility.

  In this, he ignored that while other Council members said they'd expected a resolution in August, they were told that since France "has the pen" on its former colony the CAR and was largely on vacation in August, there would be no resolution. (Araud has denied this, but the sources said what they said.)

  That was then, and this is now, with France deploying into Bangui. Inner City Press asked Araud why this, and France's intervention in Mali, are somehow not examples of the colonial FrancAfrique.

  Araud responded that France has no economic interest in CAR -- as with Mali, France's and its Areva's interest in low-tax uranium from Niger was ignored -- and that he is proud of his country. He went on, "answering a question you didn't ask," to say that Mali was about organized terrorists while CAR is about thugs who might just melt away, afraid of the French deployment.

  There were of course other questions: what of reports that Cameroon's Paul Biya told France he does not want Chad in the MISCA force? Why is France, in the midst of all this, replacing its ambassador to Bangui Serge Mocetti?

  But these questions weren't possible. Even with the UN microphone in front of Inner City Press and the question started, the French mission spokesman insisted it be moved to the far end of the stakeout to Reuters, "Monsieur Charbonneau" as Araud put it. (It was Araud to his credit and not the spokesman who subsequently relented and took Inner City Press' question on protection of civilians outside of Bangui, and about FrancAfrique.)

  Moments later when US Ambassador Samantha Power came out, she used her opening statement to agree with Araud on Inner City Press' FrancAfrique question, saying that for France this is only about protecting civilians. But Inner City Press was not called on to ask Power any follow up -- that was again the Western go-to Reuters, and Al Jazeera English, not viewable in the UN or, other than AJAM, in the US.

  Power insisted it is not a matter of the color of the helmet, that is, not a matter of whether it is a UN or an African Union mission. But a question left unanswered because not allowed to be asked: what does Power think the US role should be in these operations, in light of her book "A Problem from Hell"?

  What has the US military presence in the region, helping unsuccessfully chase down Joseph Kony of the Lord's Resistance Army, been doing during this carnage in the CAR? Watch this site.

Footnote: it is not anti-humanitarian to ask economic questions. Yesterday Inner City Press reported on the competition for logistic contracts in Mali between the American firm Pacific Architects & Engineers and French companies Thales, Sodexho, Geos and others. Will Herve Ladsous, the fourth French head of UN Peacekeeping in a row, play a role in the decision?

  France's economic interests are acknowledged even by French diplomats, in the Financial Times. But Human Rights Watch's UN lobbyist, formerly of Le Monde and France 24, has churned out "analysis" with no mention of this interest. Thursday morning he was at the UNSC stakeout, from which recently another former UN correspondent now with an NGO was ordered to leave. This is how the UN works - or doesn't. The Free UN Coalition for Access is asking at least for some content-neutral rules, that apply to all. Watch this site.


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