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Posts tagged ‘Jacques Chirac’

Obama, Hollande Resurrect US-French Relations.


President Barack Obama on Tuesday tried to dismiss the notion that France has replaced Britain as the main U.S. partner in Europe, but it was clear during the state visit of President Francois Hollande that the two have the closest relationship between the nations’ leaders since Presidents Bill Clinton and Francois Mitterrand two decades ago.

Laure Mandeville, Washington, D.C., bureau chief of the venerable French publication Le Figaro, best captured this situation when she pointed out to Obama at his joint news conference with Hollande, “You have actually praised France very warmly today and granted our president the first state visit of your second term …

“Does that mean that France has become the best European ally of the U.S. and has replaced Great Britain in that role?”

Obama replied that he has two daughters who are “both gorgeous and wonderful. And that’s how I feel about my outstanding European partners. All of them are wonderful in their own ways.”

However, as Obama and Hollande went through a welcoming ceremony at the White House, their news conference, and a state dinner, reporters from France and the United States recalled the sharp tensions between their countries after the U.S. strike against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in 2003.

The strong opposition by then-President Jacques Chirac to the Iraq offensive resulted in a modern-day low point of relations between Paris and Washington. In the United States, this was symbolized by the congressional cafeterias offering “Freedom Fries” in lieu of French fries.

All that was in the dim past Tuesday during the first state visit of a French president to the United States since 1996.

Hollande said Obama’s election as president in 2008 “had been welcomed in France” because “America was able to make something possible, to make progress possible.”

He went on to recall his decision last summer to stand with Obama on a strike on Syria, saying, “We were prepared to resort to force, but we found another option — negotiation.”

From France and the United States being “extremely attentive” in helping Lebanon deal with its massive influx of refugees, to his commitment to the cause of climate change, Hollande repeatedly underscored his solidarity with the American president.

The French Socialist president was warm and positive, even regarding the spy controversy by National Security Agency renegade Edward Snowden.

“Following the revelations [of European eavesdropping by the NSA] that appeared due to Mr. Snowden,” Hollande told reporters, “President Obama and myself clarified things. This was in the past.”

Hollande said, “Mutual trust has been restored, and that mutual trust must be based on respect for each other’s country, but also based on the protection of private life, of personal data — the fact that any individual, in spite of technological progress, can be sure that he is not being spied on.”

Obama’s response to Le Figaro’s Mandeville notwithstanding, there is a strong case to be made that Obama works more closely with France’s Hollande than with British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Where Hollande stood firm with Obama on Syria, Cameron was unable to join any military alliance against the Assad regime when the British House of Commons voted down his proposal.

In addition, it is obvious that France is now the key conduit in trying to help Obama craft a new U.S. relationship with Iran.

Hollande said as much when he told reporters: “Nothing prevented us from having bilateral contacts, and I had some bilateral contacts. In New York I received [Iranian] President [Hassan] Rouhani during the General Assembly. So it is perfectly legitimate for discussions to take place.”

Ken Weinstein, president of the Hudson Institute, summarized the Obama-Hollande friendship to Newsmax.

“Unlike President Bush, Barack Obama has a tough time turning foreign leaders into confidants — and his judgment, as when he chose [Turkish Premier] Erdogan as a preferred interlocutor, has been wrong,” Weinstein said.

“It’s clear that Obama and Hollande have a real and deep rapport. Both need each other — Obama for guidance on Syria, where his policies have failed, and to show that he does have European allies after Snowden, and Hollande, these days, to prove that he isn’t a laughingstock but a world leader.”

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

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Sarkozy Planning Political Comeback in France.


Image: Sarkozy Planning Political Comeback in France

By Drew MacKenzie

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy is planning to make a political comeback, according to one of his biggest supporters and confidantes.

In an interview with Europe 1 radio reported by The Guardian, former French First LadyBernadette Chirac said Sarkozy planned to stand again for the presidency in 2017.

Chirac, whose husband, Jacque Chirac, was president of France from 1995 to 2007 when he was succeeded by Sarkozy, at first said she was “not allowed to say” whether the center-right politician would run again. But then she admitted that he would likely challenge current President Francois Hollande, the socialist who beat him in the 2012 election, the Guardian reported.

“He’s going to tell me off for this,” Chirac added.

Sarkozy, 58, retired from politics after his loss to Hollande, but Chirac said in the radio interview that he has had a change of heart.

Although Sarkozy has not publicly declared his political intentions, The Guardian noted that it was hardly a secret across France that he is considering another run for office. The newspaper noted that he has reached out to acquaintances to inform them that he leaning toward joining the race for the next presidential election.

Sarkozy had remained out of the public eye for more than 18 months until he recently posted a picture of himself drinking coffee on his Instagram account.

“Happy new year to the businesses of the area, and thanks for the coffee,” he wrote.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Thomas Sankara And The Assassination Of Africa’s Memory By Chika Ezeanya.


 

By Chika Ezeanya

Thomas Sankara was Burkina Faso’s president from  August 1983 until his assassination on October 15, 1987. Perhaps, more than any other African president in living memory, Thomas Sankara, in four years, transformed Burkina Faso from a poor country, dependent on aid, to an economically independent and socially progressive nation.

Thomas Sankara began by purging the deeply entrenched bureaucratic and institutional corruption in Burkina Faso. He slashed the salaries of ministers and sold off the fleet of exotic cars in the president’s convoy, opting instead for the cheapest brand of car available in Burkina Faso, Renault 5. His salary was $450 per month and he refused to use the air conditioning units in his office, saying that he felt guilty doing so, since very few of his country people could afford it. Thomas Sankara would not let his portrait be hung in offices and government institutions in Burkina Faso, because every Burkinabe is a Thomas Sankara, he declared. Sankara changed the name of the country from the colonially imposed Upper Volta to Burkina Faso, which means land of upright men.

Thomas Sankara’s achievements are numerous and can only be summarized briefly; within the first year of his leadership, Sankara embarked on an unprecedented mass vaccination program that saw 2.5 million Burkinabe children vaccinated. From an alarming 280 deaths for every 1,000 births, infant mortality was immediately slashed to below 145 deaths per 1,000 live births. Sankara preached self reliance, he banned the importation of several items into Burkina Faso, and encouraged the growth of the local industry. It was not long before Burkinabes were wearing 100% cotton sourced, woven and tailored in Burkina Faso. From being a net importer of food, Thomas Sankara began to aggressively promote agriculture in Burkina Faso, telling his country people to quit eating imported rice and grain from Europe, “let us consume only what we ourselves control,” he emphasized.  In less than 4 years, Burkina Faso became self sufficient in food production through the redistribution of lands from the hands of corrupt chiefs and land owners to local farmers, and through massive irrigation and fertilizer distribution programs. Thomas Sankara utilized various policies and government assistance to encourage Burkinabes to get education. In less than two years as president, school attendance jumped from about 10% to a little below 25%, thus overturning the 90% illiteracy rate he met upon assumption of office.

Living way ahead of his time, within 12 months of his leadership,  Sankara vigorously pursued a reforestation program that saw over 10 million trees planted around the country in order  to push back the encroachment of the Sahara Desert. Uncommon at the time he lived, Sankara stressed women empowerment and campaigned for the dignity of women in a traditional patriarchal society. He employed women in several government positions and declared a day of solidarity with housewives by mandating their husbands to take on their roles for 24 hours.  A personal fitness enthusiast, Sankara encouraged Burkinabes to be fit and was regularly seen jogging unaccompanied on the streets of Ouagadougou; his waistline remained the same throughout his tenure as president.

In 1987, during a meeting of African leaders under the auspices of the Organization of African Unity, Thomas Sankara tried to convince his peers to turn their backs on the debt owed western nations. According to him, “debt is a cleverly managed reconquest of Africa. It is a reconquest that turns each one of us into a financial slave.”  He would not request for, nor accept aid from the west, noting that “…welfare and aid policies have only ended up disorganizing us, subjugating us, and robbing us of a sense of responsibility for our own economic, political, and cultural affairs. We chose to risk new paths to achieve greater well-being.”

Thomas Sankara was a pan-Africanist who spoke out against apartheid, telling French President Jacques Chirac, during his visit to Burkina Faso, that it was wrong for him to support the apartheid government and that he must be ready to bear the consequences of his actions. Sankara’s policies and his unapologetic anti-imperialist stand made him an enemy of France, Burkina Faso’s former colonial master. He spoke truth to power fearlessly and paid with his life. Upon his assassination, his most valuable possessions were a car, a refrigerator, three guitars,  motorcycles, a broken down freezer and about $400 in cash.

In death, Thomas Sankara’s burial place is unkempt and filled with weeds (click to see Thomas Sankara’s graveyard http://youtu.be/bY2UpSxXPlw ). Few young Africans have ever heard of Thomas Sankara. In reality, it is not the assassination of Thomas Sankara that has dealt a lethal blow to Africa and Africans;  it is the assassination of his memory, as  manifested in the indifference to his legacy, in the lack of constant reference to his ideals and ideas by Africans, by those who know and those who should know. Among physical and mental dirt and debris lie Africa’s heroes while the younger generations search in vain for role models from among their kind. Africans have therefore, internalized self-abhorrence and the convictions of innate incapability to bring about transformation. Transformation must run contrary to the African’s DNA, many Africans subconsciously believe.

Africans are not given to celebrating their own heroes, but this must change. It is a colonial legacy that was instituted to establish the inferiority of the colonized and justify colonialism.  It was a strategic policy that ensured that Africans celebrated the heroes of their colonial masters, but not that of Africa. Fifty years and counting after colonialism ended, Africa’s curriculum must now be redrafted to reflect the numerous achievements of Africans. The present generation of Africans is thirsty, searching for where to draw the moral, intellectual and spiritual courage to effect change. The waters to quench the thirst, as other continents have already established, lies fundamentally in history –  in Africa’s forbears, men, women and children who experienced much of what most Africans currently experience, but who chose to toe a different path. The media, entertainment industry, civil society groups, writers, institutions and organizations must begin to search out and include African role models, case studies and examples in their contents.

For Africans, the strength desperately needed for the transformation of the continent cannot be drawn from World Bank and IMF policies, from aid and assistance obtained from China, India, the United States or Europe. The strength to transform Africa lies in the foundations laid by uncommon heroes like Thomas Sankara; a man who showed Africa and the world that with a single minded pursuit of purpose,  the worst can be made the best, and in record time, too.

You may like Chika on Facebook at www.faccebook.com/chikaforafrica

Source: SAHARA REPORTERS.

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