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French press review 16 July 2015

Text by: William Niba
8 min

Burundi is under the floodlights of the press as President Pierre Nkurunziza's thirst for power plants the seeds of another genocide. The French press also looks at an African donors meeting in Addis Ababa which brightens prospects of sustained growth in the erstwhile "dark" continent, as well as flip-flops about the Greek bailout plan and doping suspicions haunting Chris Froome, the yellow jersey of the Tour de France.

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Libération explores the totalitarian drift of Burundi’s strongman Pierre Nkurunziza, who by insisting to stand in presidential elections despite being barred by the constitution has become a threat to a fragile peace mechanism installed in the tiny country since 2003. The left-leaning newspaper publishes the reflections of Jean-Pierre Chretien and Jean-Francois Dupaquier, co-authors of "Burundi 1972: On the Brink of Genocide".

The two prominent historians argue in the tribune that Nkurunziza has become an outlaw since he insisted on standing in rescheduled presidential elections on 21 July, after two terms in office, flouting the Arusha Accords of August 2000 barring anyone from seeking a third term of office.

The authors of the article note that by summoning the electorate to the polls at the middle of an East African mediation process is an act of defiance of his regional peers. Secondly, they consider the move as the logical continuation of his autocratic culture marked by his insistence to hold the 29 June general elections, despite a massive boycott by the opposition and international observers, which CNDD/FDD party won by a landslide.

More than 70 people, mostly pro-Arusha Accord advocates, have been killed in a crackdown by security forces in Burundi since then, according to Libé. The left-leaning paper reports that there was a massacre in the Mutakura opposition stronghold in the capital on 3 July.

Private radios have since gone silent after being ransacked by police, forcing independent journalists to flee into exile alongside opposition leaders and some dissidents of the ruling party.

For more than a year now, the paper says, the distribution of war weapons to the Imbonerakure militia loyal to President Nkurunziza has exposed the radicalisation intended by the Burundian dictator, an atmosphere of terror which is a grim reminder of the tyranny Burundi experienced between 1966 and 1993, according to Libération.

La Croix looks forward to next week’s UN African Development conference in Addis Ababa, expressing delight that public aid funding will be at the centre of the gathering of 193 UN member countries. The UN conference on trade and development says donors need to raise billions of dollars in supplementary aid per year to eradicate poverty and climate change by 2030.

The conference to be attended by US President Barack Obama couldn’t have come at a better time, argues the Catholic newspaper. It points to the fact that the continent’s annual growth rate stood at 5.5 per cent over the last decade thanks to the rapidly expanding digital economy, with 25 African economies expected to post growth rates exceeding 5 per cent up to 2025, according to the newspaper.

But for La Croix, the gains for Africa’s new growth engines would be erased if the continent does not master its demographics. Africa’s population is expected to double by 2050 to reach 4.2 billion with Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, expected to account for 10 per cent of global birth rate in 30 years time.

The accord on the contentious Greek bailout package is already causing anxieties about its viability four days after its inking. That’s the view upheld byLe Figaro after Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras suffered a major mutiny in his own party. A group of 32 “frondeurs” or rebels broke ranks with their Syriza party to vote against the accord while six more opted to abstain, forcing Tsipras to rely on the support of pro-European opposition parties to win the vote.

His explanation before parliament that he was up between a rock and a hard place didn’t help. "I had specific choices before me: one was to accept a deal I disagree with on many points, another was a disorderly default," he said. Hence Le Figaro’s conclusion that he definitely didn’t believe in the deal signed with Greece’s creditors.

As France’s parliament voted on Wednesday as required to approve the deal, L’Humanité slammed the European oligarchs and loan sharks who subjected the Greek people to a life of austerity and humiliation. They voted for the accord without defending it, says the Communist party daily.

Suspicions of doping have surrounded the Tour de France’s yellow jersey after his power display in the Pyrénées, headlines Libération. The out of the ordinary front page story comes as the 30-year-old Briton is facing a barrage of questions since he decimated his rivals during his stunning victory on the Tour's 10th stage on Tuesday.

It’s everyone against Froome, bellows L’Equipe, which says there are good reasons to suspect Froome of doping. It reports that a video of Froome’s famous victory on Mont Ventoux during his 2013 Tour-winning year was hacked and published on the internet showing that his heart rate remained stable at 160 beats per minute despite him accelerating away from his rivals.

Many people reacted incredulously to that, believing it to be impossible. That could explain why the sport daily believes it is no longer just the runners-up Nairo Quintana, Tejay Van Garderen and two-time Tour winner Alberto Contador who are tracking down the British speedmaster, but the hounds as well.

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