French Association Welcomes Proposed Law on Mercenaries

By Ruth Nabakwe
Paris, France

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

December 2, 2002

The President of the French Association "Survie" which monitors Franco-Africa Policy Francois Xavier Verschave Wednesday welcomed the French government's decision to have Parliament pass a vote to reprimand mercenaries.

Verschave was reacting to a report in a French Daily Newspaper "La Croix" published on November 13 which stated that the French foreign ministry "le Quai D'Orsay," had confirmed that the Centre Right government of President Jacques Chirac envisaged having the French National assembly vote on a Law on mercenaries.

The Law to reprimand mercenary activity proposed by the former socialist government of Prime Minister Lionel Jospin was presented to the French senate in April 2001 by the socialists.

Survie has persistently called on the government to vote on the Law in view of mercenary activities that destabilised African countries.

One such attempt was the recent failed debacle in June 2002 to destabilise Madagascar which was foiled thanks to the French President Jacques Chirac who intervened to the Tanzanian authorities to intercept the group that had taken off from France en-route to the Indian Ocean island with a stop over in Dar es salaam, Tanzania.

Former Malagasy President Didier Ratsiraka exiled in France was widely suspected to have sent the mercenaries to destabilise the current President Marc Ravalomanana at the height of the crisis on the island nation following a disputed Presidential election between the two.

In France Ratsiraka has become as quiet as a church mouse ever since the French authorities warned that he was not allowed to make any political declarations against his country while on French soil.

At the time of the foiled mercenary attempt in Madagascar Survie President Verschave expressed concern as to why the mercenaries were allowed back into France scot free without any punitive measures being taken against them and urged the French government to speedily vote on the proposed Law to ensure such criminal activities were punished.

Welcoming the envisaged vote on the Law Verschave however warned that its contents should not be diluted as to render it non effective.

"Survie rejoices at this positive evolution [the likely vote on the Law]. Nevertheless we warn against any attempt to dilute and to distort the text of the law," Verschave said.

Verschave further warned that his Association would ensure that the vote does not become a smokescreen destined to hoodwink French people with the same old stuff of , "France, Fatherland of Human Rights" but became a veritable vote devoid of distortions on the proposed text to ensure it curbed mercenary activities particularly in Africa.

Survie also warned against any attempt to apply the Law selectively.

"It [the Law] should not uniquely be used against mercenaries who threatened the Friends of France and who are in effect the friends of the powers that be in France," Verschave said.

If passed the Law was expected to discourage one of the darkest chapters in Franco-Africa relations in which French mercenary activities in Africa have helped prop up dictators and ensure regime changes in Africa through non-democratic means.

As Survie President says it could portend the beginning of the end of "Françafrique", seen as the dark side of Franco-Africa Policy that has reigned supreme ever since late French President Charles de Gaulle chose one Jacques Foccart as his point-man on African affairs with disastrous consequences for Africa's political stability.

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