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French press review 18 October 2014

Text by: William Niba
7 min

The French press looks to Africa today. There’s a glimmer of hope about the fate of Nigeria’s kidnapped schoolgirls and its fight with Ebola is praised. Protests erupt in the Central African Republic. Mozambique is judged a fragile Eldorado. In France there are reactions to changes in family allowance payments.


Le Figaro is monitoring the reportedly imminent release of the 219 Chibok girls abducted by Boko Haram in April in the north-eastern region of the country after a ceasefire deal.

According to the right-wing newspaper, the Chief of Staff of Nigeria’s armed forces, Major General Alex Badeh, confirmed the deal with the Islamists, adding that he had given firm instructions to military commanders in the region to hold their fire and create the conditions needed to facilitate the freeing of the girls.

Dossier: Sharia wars - Boko Haram v the military in northern Nigeria

Le Figaro quotes the Nigerian press as saying that the deal was brokered by Presidents Idris Déby of Chad and Paul Biya of Cameroon.

However, the right-wing newspaper says claims by Nigeria’s intelligence chief that the deal is still being finalised is a cause of renewed anxiety and frustrations for the children’s parents as the Nigerian nation holds its breath.

According to Libération, it is the abduction of the Chibok girls that earned the fundamentalist group the global reputation it now basks in.

The volatile situation in the Central African Republic is another issue of concern to Le Figaro.

More than a dozen anti-Balaka fighters were gunned down by UN peacekeepers in the past week during clashes in the southern suburb of the city. An Africa diplomat in the city told Le Figaro that President Catherine Samba-Panza now appears to be the target of disturbances on Friday in the capital Bangui with gunfire and barricades on the road leading to the airport.

One African expert told Le Figaro that the president has created lots of frustration by spending a lot of time consulting people and failing to address their grievances.

Le Monde is full of praise for Nigeria’s fight against Ebola.

According to the paper, which consecrates a full page to the story, the country has succeeded in eradicating the virus thanks to a strict surveillance of infected persons and those who had any contacts with them.

Le Monde believes Nigeria was able to make its mark thanks to the efficiency of the e-health application which enabled contact tracers to transmit the results of their studies to the national anti-Ebola taskforce office in real time.

Libération brings Mozambique under scrutiny after Wednesday’s presidential elections. The newspaper says the southern African nation posted a seven per cent growth rate in 2013 with an influx of investors and the emergence of a wealthy middle class. But inequalities and corruption abound and the country remains a fragile Eldorado, it warns.

President François Hollande’s reform of family allowances draws an avalanche of comments from today’s national dailies with Le Monde headlining on what it claims is the end of the universality of the generous welfare state which dates back to 1945.

According to the paper, Socialist lawmakers who had been on in conflict with the government finally got their way.

Under the reform, couples earning more than 6,000 euros could lose up to half of the allowances received for the upkeep of two children while those with income above 8,000 euros will see their premiums divided by four.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

People likely to be affected by the measure represent a bracket of about 12 per cent of income earners classified under what is generally said to be the well off, according to the paper.

The government expects to generate about 800 million euros through the measure, enabling it to scrap its previous unpopular plan to slash the birth grant by half and to maintain the age of 14 as the basis for the increase of family premiums.

According to Le Monde, the opportunity this measure gives Hollande to reunify the left was more important to him than considerations of social justice.

Le Figaro channels the bitterness felt in conservative and traditional family circles.

According to the paper, it is unfair to consider comfortably off families with children to be wealthy.

Notions of wealth in families with children are quite difficult to establish, it argues.

Le Figaro warns that the setting of new criteria for the family quotient could have devastating effects on the principle of national solidarity. For the paper, it could get wealthy citizens to attack the rationale behind health coverage for all and spark a massive walkout of wealthy contributors from the state-operated health care system.

For left-leaning Libération left-wing groups and the unions see the introduction of the graduated approach as an attack on the universal foundation on which the law was based.

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