France

Franco-Russian game in Central African Republic?

French and Russian military networks are backing rival forces to influence upcoming elections in Central African Republic according to a new report by The Sentry, a Washington-based NGO co-founded by Hollywood actor George Clooney. France used to call the shots in CAR, its former colony, but President Faustin-Archange Touadéra has allied himself to Russia and availed himself of the Wagner Group, a shadowy mercenary organization linked to Vladimir Putin. The Sentry claims France now supports a rebel coalition that opposes Touadéra—who is standing for a second term in December—though the French foreign ministry denies the accusation. All of this spells bad news for ordinary Central Africans, who have suffered under rebel groups for years. More than one in four are currently internally displaced or living as refugees in neighboring countries.

New Caledonia: one more shot for independence

The results are in for the Oct. 4 independence referendum in New Caledonia and, as in 2018, the majority has voted against seceding from France. However, the proportion of "yes" to "no" votes changed. Support for independence rose from 43% in 2018 to 47% this time, indicating that more residents than ever before want an independent country for their island home. Voter turnout was also even higher than last time, rising from 81% to 85%. And the archipelago could still become independent in the coming years. The 1998 Nouméa Accord [translation] that paved the way for this referendum also allows for one more independence vote, in 2022, for a total of three. One-third of the region's legislature must vote in favor of holding the final referendum—and that body already has a pro-independence majority.

International youth file climate change lawsuits

Six Portuguese young people have filed a legal complaint at the European Court of Human Rights  (ECHR) in Strasbourg, France, accusing 33 countries of violating their right to a secure future by failing to take action to mitigate the climate crisis. The youths aged 12 through 21, represented by the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN), are targetting countries whose policies on carbon emission reduction they say are too weak to meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal of the Paris Agreement, citing the country ratings of the Climate Action Tracker. Named in the suit are the 27 European Union member states, as well as the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Norway, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine.

Mali: now a three-way war —or four?

Jihadist militants continue to wage a low-level insurgency in Mali, targetting government troops and their French allies. Last week, the Group for Support of Islam & Muslims (Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimin, or JNIM) claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on French forces in northern Mali. The assault with two explosive-laden vehicles on a base in the Gossi area of Timbuktu region left one French soldier dead. (LWJ, July 30) But internecine fighting between jihadist factions has also started to take an increasing toll. Since an apparent truce broke down in February, there have been repeated clashes between JNIM, an al-Qaeda affiliate, and the self-declared Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS, or EIGS by its French rendering). The ISGS has also engaged another Qaeda-aligned faction active along the border with Burkina Faso, the Macina Liberation Front

CAR: accused war criminal runs for president

Amid rising tensions and insecurity in the Central African Republic, deposed former president François Bozizé has announced his candidacy for the upcoming presidential elections, scheduled for December. Bozizé is currently under UN sanctions and subject to an arrest warrant issued by the government for "crimes against humanity and incitement to genocide." Authorities show little sign of moving to execute the warrant; Bozizé announced his candidacy July 25 before a large crowd of supporters at a congress of his party, Kwa na Kwa (Work, Nothing But Work in the Sango language), in the capital Bangui.

Global mayors envision car-free 'new normal'

The Global Mayors COVID-19 Recovery Task Force, representing cities on every continent, has announced a proposal for a post-pandemic "new normal" that will de-emphasize cars and carve out more room on the streets for bicyclists. The C40 Mayors Agenda for a Green and Just Recovery, issued July 15, seeks to create conditions that will proactively prepare cities for future pandemics, while addressing systemic injustices and keeping global warming below the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement. The Agenda calls for substantial investments in affordable housing and public transportation, the permanent banning of cars from many thoroughfares, an end to public investment in and subsidies for fossil fuels, and an embrace of the "15-Minute City" paradigm now being pioneered by Paris.

Sahel insurgency reaches Ivory Coast borderlands

In another sign of the Islamist insurgency in the Sahel reaching West Africa's littoral states, the armed forces of Ivory Coast announced on May 24 the completion of a joint operation with the military of neighboring inland Burkina Faso, to clear out a Qaedist camp that had been established on the border between the two countries. Some 1,000 Ivorian soldiers took part in the operation, in which eight militants were reported killed and 38 others detained—24 in Burkina Faso and 14 in Ivory Coast. More are thought to have escaped on motorbikes through the bush of Comoé  National Park, which lies along the northern border of Ivory Coast. The militants are said to be followers of the Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM), al-Qaeda's West African franchise. Automatic weapons, motorbikes and other equipment was seized in the raid outside Alidougou, a border town in southern Burkina Faso.

Niger: displacement crisis amid counterinsurgency

The French-backed military campaign against Islamist militants in Niger is claiming victories against the insurgency that has mounted in the country since 2015. Niger's Defense Ministry said in a statement Feb. 20 that over the past month, "120 terrorists have been neutralized," a presumed euphemism for killed. The statement said there had been no losses among Nigerien or French troops, and that vehicles and bomb-making equipment had been seized. The operation has centered on the Tillabéri region near the borders with Mali and Burkina Faso, where a state of emergency has been in place for two years.

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