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At UN on Mandela, France Reads Statement, Rejected Him on Burundi

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 5 -- As news of Nelson Mandela's death spread on Thursday, at the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon read a statement and took two questions; written statements were issued by US Ambassadors Samantha Power and Susan Rice, President of the General Assembly John Ashe, even the International Monetary Fund's Christine Lagarde.

  It was said that UN Security Council president for December Gerard Araud of France would read the Council's statement at 7 pm. The UN Television camera was re-assembled, and a handful of journalists set up shop. It was pushed back to 7:20, then 7:30. Araud and his spokesman arrived and were heard discussing whether it would be French only, or English after French.

  As it turns out France and Mandela are linked, as luck would have it around Africa's Great Lakes Region. Mandela after wisely serving a single term as South Africa's president -- that is, not clinging to power -- in 2000 became facilitator of the Arusha Process seeking peace in Burundi.

  In that capacity Mandela briefed the Security Council, including on October 2, 2000, giving rise to this press statement mentioning Mandela as well as the Democratic Republic of the Congo's late president Laurent Kabila, or Kabila pere.

Cut to a December 28, 2004 cable on Wikileaks, recounting that

"France continues to seek solutions for the crisis in the Great Lakes through policies designed to support DRC President Kabila and the transition process and to block Rwandan interference in Congolese affairs. France's history in the Rwandan genocide complicates their ability to engage with Rwanda, leading the GOF, whether by inclination or out of necessity to seek P3 cooperation....Perhaps scarred by their experiences in Rwanda, the Government of France was unreceptive to USG efforts in 2001/2 to coordinate contingency planning for potential mass killings in Burundi. The French response was 'if you plan for it, you ensure it will occur.' French interest in Burundi briefly peaked in October 2002, following a call from Nelson Mandela to Chirac requesting funding for the deployment of an army of troops from Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya to engage the Burundi rebels military, an idea French officials characterized as 'crazy.' Mandela's request came to nothing."

  Final cut to Araud on December 5, 2013 at 8 pm in front of the Security Council, reading a statement praising Mandela's struggle. He started leaving the microphone as soon as the statement was finished. Away from the mic he said he never met Mandela. What about Burundi? There's to be a moment of silence in, and stakeout in front of the General Assembly on December 6. Watch this site.


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