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French press review 23 May 2012

4 min

A look ahead to June's legislative elections, the problem with the stock market launch of Facebook and why France has no law on sexual harassment grab the headlines in the French press.

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Since January 2010, according to the front page of Le Monde, each individual Greek has received 31,000 euros in handouts from the average European taxpayer. That would be bad enough if the various rescue plans had worked and Athens was offering to pay it all back.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

But they, the plans, didn't, work, and the only serious question left to be answered is when do we stop throwing the money away and start spending it on useful things, like relaunching French economic growth.

Le Monde says the Greeks will have another chance to choose a new government on 17 June. That election should be seen by the rest of the eurozone as a referendum on the euro.

Either Greece chooses leaders who are prepared to play by the rules of the European monetary union or they choose anti-austerity geezers who think that the problem is Europe, not Greece. If the average Greek believes that, let him go back to his devalued drachma, says Le Monde, while the rest of us go on with the tough but honourable task of forging a better Europe.

The new French Justice Minister, Christiane Taubira, was at a sports venue here in Paris for the annual inter-prison basketball tournament last weekend. According to Le Monde, 76 prisoners from 18 penitential establishments were involved and they were supervised by 60 prison guards.

Nonetheless, when the team from Fleury-Mérogis, on the outskirts of Paris, got back on the bus, the guards could find only 12 of the original 13 players. One of them had taken advantage of the excitement surrounding Fleury-Mérogis' winning the competition to melt into the crowd and vanish. He didn't even wait for his medal.

The inter-prison tournament has been running for three years and this is the first case of a prisoner escaping. Christiane Taubira has, of course, promised to reduce the French prison population. But she probably had something slightly less informal in mind. It's a start.

The police are still looking for a chap in sneakers and basketball gear.

There's a piece on the opinion pages of Le Monde, headlined "Rwanda must extradite Congolese war criminals to the ICC".

The article concerns, among others, Laurent Nkunda, former chief of the wonderfully named National Council for the Defence of the People. He was arrested in January 2009 because it is suspected that troops under his control raped, tortured and murdered thousands of people in Kisangani, Bukavu and Kiwanja, all three located in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Then there's Jules Mutubusi, a former officer in the Goma branch of the Congolese Rally for Democracy, another group suspected of a list of war crimes long enough the keep the ICC busy for the next 300 years.

What the pair have in common, aside from a very dubious record in human rights, is strong commercial links with those in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, who profit from the endless stream of natural resources stolen in the DRC and exported, without questions being asked, through Rwanda.

Bosco Ntaganda, who took over from Nkunda as chief of the so-called Armed Forces of the DRC, is also wanted for war crimes by the ICC, but he frequently crosses the border officially with visas from the Rwandan immigration authorities.

Kinshasa is happy to turn a blind eye, since it was thanks to Ntaganda's muscular approach to election campaigning that Joseph Kabila won large majorities in North and South Kivu in the 2011 presidential battle.

Ntaganda's successor is already in place, should his war criminal reputation and his current need to hide in the Virunga National Park make him less able to look after the interests of his Congolese and Rwandan paymasters.

The successor is Sultani Makenga, leader of the group M23, known for the 23 March 2009 signing of the peace treaty which was supposed to see former congolese rebels integrated into the national army. It's turned out to be much better value for money to keep the export business ticking over.

Especially since all those involved can rest assured that the long arm on international justice will never get even close.

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