French NGOs Launch Urgent Appeal to Prevent the Worst in Cote d'Ivoire

By Ruth Nabakwe

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

December 13, 2002

Worried by what they described as an escalation of xenophobic propaganda in Cote d'Ivoire several leading French NGOs rallied together Thursday to launch an urgent appeal to the international community to dissuade the protagonists against acts that could lead to full scale war.

The NGOs who have already sought audience with the French Foreign affairs ministry to deliver what they described as the French civil society appeal on Cote d'Ivoire to French authorities said they believed that the international community and in particular France which is a member of the UN Security Council have the means to prevent an escalation of the crisis "if their desire is to prevent the worst" from happening.

Signatories to the appeal entitled , "Cote d'Ivoire- Prevent the Worst" which was launched at a press conference Thursday included the French NGO "Survie" which monitors Franco-Africa cooperation, the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), ATTAC which fights for a more human-centred globalisation and CIMADE which defends the rights of refugees and immigrants in France.

Others included a grouping of "African intellectuals on Cote d'Ivoire" that were represented at the appeal launch by Madagascar writer Jean Luc Raharimanana. Coordination SUD NGO as well as the Catholic Committee Against Hunger and For Development (CCFD), Oxfam Solidarity and the Centre for Research and Information on Development (CRID) joined their signature to the appeal that was expected to rally the international community for peace in Cote d'Ivoire.

The NGOs were particularly concerned that recruitment of mercenaries and militias could lead to a general resumption of fighting that would provoke inestimable massacres of innocent civilians.

The President of Survie NGO François Xavier Verschave said France could not escape the responsibility of preventing an escalation of the conflict and should according to him help promote dialogue that would lead to the establishment of a democratic foundation and a new sense of citizenship for all Ivorians.

Earlier Thursday, French authorities announced plans to reinforce French military presence on the ground in Cote d'Ivoire and evoked their readiness to host a conference in Paris of ECOWAS heads of states involved in efforts to find a political solution to the crisis through dialogue.

French foreign affairs spokesman François Rivasseau also announced that Paris was at the same time ready to host a parallel meeting of representatives of the Ivorian political class in a bid to find a lasting solution to the Ivorian imbroglio.

Madagascar writer Jean Luc Raharimanana disclosed that the " African intellectuals on Cote d'Ivoire," a grouping of African writers in France set up to identify solutions to the Ivorian crisis would hold a three day meeting in Cotonou, Benin from 20 December aimed at reflecting on the way forward for Cote d’ivoire.

The Ivorian crisis has generated human rights concerns according to Emmanuelle Duverger, in charge of Africa and International Justice Desk at the International Human Rights body FIDH.

She said FIDH representatives who recently visited Abidjan held talks with Ivorian authorities on their concerns about Cote d'Ivoire where she said, " impunity could serve as an open door to all sorts of human rights abuses."

While the earlier infamous "Youpgon mass graves" found on the outskirts of Abidjan had yet to be fully investigated and the culprits brought to book Duverger echoed French authorities concerns saying that the latest mass grave found in Western Cote d'Ivoire by French forces in the country should also not go unpunished.

A representative of CIMADE which defends the rights of refugees and immigrants in France Gerard Sadik shared FIDH concerns on human rights but his target was France whom he accused of holding Ivorian nationals seeking asylum in France in detention centres and deporting them back to Abidjan despite the prevailing situation in that country.

Sadik was particularly worried that some of the asylum seekers deported to Abidjan were from the Djioula region in North of Cote d'Ivoire and said sending them back to Abidjan could pose risks to their lives. He urged French authorities to reconsider their "repressive" position on Ivorian immigrants in France.

But a representative of the ATTAC on the NGO's Africa Desk Anne Marchand attributed the evolving Ivorian crisis to what she described as the "Economy of War" in which Mafia economies were emerging around resources linked to coffee, cocoa and privatisation of public utilities.

Marchand said however these "merchants of war" were facing increasing resistance from African populations who wanted a chance to define their own destinies. However conflicts were impeding African peoples efforts to achieve just that, she added.

She said the ATTAC NGO Ivorian section had already held a meeting within the framework of the anti-globalization movement of Porte Allegre of Brazil to protest against neo-liberal policies that take away the rights of citizens to define their future. She saw the current crisis in Cote d'Ivoire as partly as a result of these policies that encouraged the economy of war.

Coordination SUD NGO representative Henri Rouille d'Orfeuil seemed to share Marchand's remarks when he noted that already economic activity at the Ivorian port of Abidjan was compromised by the ongoing conflict.

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