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French ambassador resigns, accusing foreign ministry of racism

The French foreign ministry on the Quai d'Orsay, Paris
The French foreign ministry on the Quai d'Orsay, Paris Ministère des affaires étrangères et européennes

France’s ambassador to Andorra has resigned, accusing the foreign affairs ministry of racial discrimination. Former footballer and politician Zaïr Kedadouche says he has experienced “the most abject racism” at the ministry in a letter of resignation to President François Hollande.

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Kedadouche, who was born in France to parents of Algerian origin, resigned in March but his letter has only been made public on Tuesday.

In it he resigns from his post of ambassador to the tiny principality on the Franco-Spanish border, claming to have been “humiliated” at the Quai d’Orsay, as the ministry is known in France.

“It was at the foreign affairs ministry that I have encountered the most abject racism and felt the humiliation of not belonging to the same social class,” he writes.

Kedadouche, who was a footballer, local councillor and deputy mayor before becoming a diplomat, accuses officials of holding up his nomination until after the 2012 presidential election in the hope that the new president would not endorse his appointment.

And he claims that he was told that he could not be sent to the Belgian town of Antwerp because the growing influence of far-right parties and because his Arab name could be considered provocative by the city’s Jewish community.

The ministry is “elitist” and has “a totally closed mind”, Kedadouche says, pointing out that only two ambassadors spoke up in his favour when he submitted his resignation.

He has made a legal complaint and gone to the government’s ombudsman.

The accusations are “baseless and unacceptable”, foreign ministry spokesperson Ropan Nadal said after the letter was made public.

Kedadouche never raised his concerns during regular interviews with inspectors, he said.

Although France’s civil service claims to be non-discriminatory on the grounds that the entrance exam is open to all, Kedadouche was the only ambassador from a “visible minority”, according to a study commissioned by two anti-racist groups, and only three of France’s 52 prefects, who represent central government in the regions, are from minorities.
 

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