Tuesday, March 29, 2011

"Arrogant, unbending and vengeful" - Gaddafi? No, that's a description of the French Foreign Minister!

FRANCE's Foreign Minister Alain Juppe has said his government would support arming the Libyan rebels against Colonel Gaddafi,lining up with the US perhaps not just on policy but for the race to influence Libya's future. With David Cameron saying Gaddafi has got to go, and unconfirmed reports that British SAS forces are already out there, the pretence about limited aims of a "no fly zone" protecting Libyan civilians seems almost forgotten.

But hearing Alain Juppe's name on the news brought to mind things that should not be forgotten. This is his second time round in the job of Foreign Minister for France. He held the same position from 1993-5. During that time Britain and France had forces under the UN flag in Bosnia, mandated to safeguard humanitarian aid routes to besieged towns and later guard so-called safe havens.

They did not favour relaxing the arms embargo to let arms through to the Bosnians. British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd said it would "only create a level killing field". Even a supply of mine detectors was blocked. You could see a lot of Bosnians with legs missing.

It was Alain Juppe who accompanied Douglas Hurd to Belgrade to see Slobodan Milosevic. According to a report in Le Figaro they promised the Serb leader a free hand in eastern Bosnia. I have not seen this confirmed anywhere. But Foca and Gorazde came under siege, and then there was the massacre at Srebrenica, which had been a supposed safe haven.

After his career at the Foreign Office, Douglas -now Lord -Hurd moved into a new direction. He joined Pauline Neville-Jones, who had chaired the joint intelligence committee, at Nat West Markets. Together they went to breakfast in Belgrade and helped broker the deal for privatisation of Serbia's telecomms, for which they were well-rewarded. Dame Pauline has become Baroness Neville-Jones and is Minister for Security and counter-terrorism in David Cameron's government.

M.Juppe has had a more checqered career. From Foreign Minister he became Prime Minister, thanks perhaps to his support for Jacques Chirac in the presidential campaign. He also became leader of the Gaullist RPR. Chirac said Alain Juppé was "the best among us".

However, in November-December 1995, his plans to "reform" France's Welfare State caused the country's biggest wave of social unrest and strikes since May-June 1968, and he was billed the most unpopular Prime minister of the Fifth Republic. In spring 1997,the right-wing government lost the elections, and Juppe was succeeded by the Socialist Party's Lionel Jospin.

Worse was to come. The former RPR president campaigned to unite conservative parties, and became president of the Union for a Popular Movement (Union pour un mouvement populaire or UMP), and was its first president from 2002 to 2004.

But in 2004, Alain Juppé was tried for the felony of abuse of public funds, when he was head of the RPR and the party illegally used personnel provided by the City of Paris for running its operations. He was convicted and sentenced to an 18-month suspended jail sentence, the deprivation of civic rights for five years, and the deprivation of the right to run for political office for 10 years. He appealed the decision, whereby his disqualification from holding elected office was reduced to one year and the suspended sentence cut to 14 months.

Juppe considered taking an academic post in Canada while he was facing a bar from office. But in October 2006 he was re-elected Mayor of Bordeaux, a post he had held a decade earlier, and in May 2007 he was back in government, though he soon resigned again after running unsuccessfully in the 2007 legislative elections.

Though I've been surprised to hear Juppe's name again, I'm not half as surprised as the Rwandan government were when they heard he had once again become Foreign Minister. Rwanda's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Louise Mushikiwabo, has said that the appointment was a “bad surprise” for Rwanda.

The Mucyo Commission which investigated the French government's complicity in the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi people found that he strongly supported the forces that committed the genocide.

According to the UN, about 800,000 people, mostly members of the Tutsi minority or moderate Hutus who opposed the massacre were killed in Rwanda between April and July 1994.

The Rwandan commission accused French military personnel of themselves killing Tutsis, and Hutus accused of sheltering Tutsis, and said they had left the Hutu extremist Interhamwe in charge of roadblocks where they could continue the killings. Its report named thirteen French leaders and officials as incriminated, including then president Mitterand, prime minister Edouard Balladur, and Foreign Minister Alain Juppe.

France's relations with Rwanda had been improving in the last year, and officials have tried to impress upon the Rwandans that Juppe is a "changed man", and anyway subordinate to Sarkozy. Rwanda's Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwab is not convinced. "On a personal level, his twisted Rwandan journey since 1994 has not deviated; we have been observing him, including his negative reaction to the normalization of relations between France and Rwanda.”

From Reims in France, Alain Gauthier, the president of a Paris-based genocide survivors’ advocacy group (CPCR) said Juppe’s return to a position he held from 1993 to 1995, only evokes bad memories for the victims of the 1994 Genocide.

“The man is one of those who is accused of supporting a genocidal regime, has never felt the slightest remorse or raised questions for his actions and that of the government in which he participated,” reads part of Gauthier’s statement.

“The victims of the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda in 1994 may legitimately fear the return of such a man in power”.

In Kigali,the Rwandan capital, Evode Kalima, a genocide survivor and MP said Juppe’s come back was a cause of concern. “His return to that position causes worry because Alain Juppe is a cunning man, who is arrogant, unbending and vengeful,”


Sounds just the man to be trusted in the leadership of a supposedly humanitarian and liberating mission

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