French press review 13 November 2015

Text by: William Niba
9 min

UN Security Council hands sanctions decision on Burundi to the African Union. Bongo daughter obtains court injunction to see President Ali Bongo's birth certficate in the battle over the family's heritage. And the coming COP 21 summit is dampened somewhat as John Kerry  ups his "no treaty" rhetoric.


We start with Le Monde’s coverage of the crisis in Burundi following the UN Security Council’s failure to slap sanctions on the regime of the veteran president Pierre Nkurunziza. Le Monde reports that the Council opted for a nonbinding resolution after reservations expressed by Russia and African members who'd warned that the threat of sanctions could be counterproductive.

According to Le Monde, the 15-member body opted instead to leave the sanctions issue in the hands of the African Union, a decision welcomed by France which had tabled the resolution.

The paper points to an interesting development from the Security Council’s vote. Paris and Human Rights Watch both consider the decision as an important step forward and testimony of international mobilization to break the spiral of violence in the Great Lakes country.

Le Monde says the Burundi government has so far shown no interest in negotiating, citing recent remarks by the country’s foreign minister, Alain Aimé Nyamitwe. He tried to reassure the Security Council in a video link statement on Monday that people were going about their businesses peacefully, with the exception of what he called "a few districts of Bujumbura" where small criminal groups were active.

Human Rights Watch however stated that, after what it termed “such a strong message” of its willingness to give the Bujumbura regime a chance to negotiate, the United Nations ought to move quickly to send a fact-finding mission to the country to assess what needs to be done to avert the worse. This, after the UN appointed its former envoy to Yemen Jamel Benomar as its political negotiator in Bujumbura.

La Croix casts serious doubts on the Pope’s visit to the Central African Republic, citing the precarious security conditions in Bangui.

The war-ravaged country is one of three stops on the Pontiff’s maiden African tour, but as the Catholic daily reports, commanders of the 900-strong French force in Bangui bolstering the UN peacekeeping mission there have expressed reservations about their ability to make the violence-prone city safe enough for the Pope.

La Croix however holds that both Muslims and Christians working round the clock to ensure the success of the trip remain hopeful that the Pope will not be deterred in his desire to come and pray with them for peace.

And is Gabonese President Ali Bongo really the son of the country’s late leader Omar Bongo? That’s a question the African edition of Le Monde is investigating as Albert Bernard Bongo’s 52 children stand at daggers drawn over the sharing of his fortune, estimated at hundreds of millions of euros.

The newspaper claims in its latest issue that there were new skirmishes in the battle on Thursday when one of Bongo’s daughters Maisha Bongo Ondimba filed an injunction to publish President Ai Bongo’s birth certificate with the Magistrates Court in the French city of Nantes, where all the files of former French colonies are stored.

Maisha Bongo Ondimba is trying to prove that Gabon’s current leader is not her blood brother and as such has no right to her father’s wealth.

The news is that the French tribunal has approved her request to see President Ali Bongo’s full birth certificate, adding that it will be made available to her next week.

For anyone unfamiliar with the integral birth certificate, it is a huge document, comprising several pages listing such details as where you were born, the hospital and the time and place of your birth, how you were delivered, and not forgetting any spicy details concerning the relationship between your parents.

President Ali Bongo Ondimba was born under the name of Albert Bernard Bongo in Brazzaville on February 9 1959. At the time it was the capital of French colonial Equatorial Africa, which is why the document ended up in Nantes, according to informed sources.

President Ali Bongo’s lawyer, Claude Dumont Beghi says the much-awaited document is a nonevent and a storm in a tecup. Le Monde however notes for the record that the dispute was sparked by Maisha Bongo Ondimba’s inclusion in the succession file of the birth certificate of an alleged biological sister to Ali Bongo who was born three months after the president by the president’s very own mother.

According to Le Monde, Bongo could have shot himself in the foot by instructing his lawyers not fight attempts to publish his birth certificate, adding that the document would end up modifying not just the destiny of Bongo’s heritage but also of the rich central African country.

Some papers lead with the sacking by Air France of four employees accused of responsibility for last month’s chaotic scenes at a board meeting where two company executives had their shirts shredded by angry staff.

The two managers had to scale over a fence to escape being lynched by workers enraged by the shedding of 2900 jobs.

Le Parisien reports that the four workers are accused of serious misconduct during the scuffle and are due to stand trial in December for their alleged roles in the violence.
Libération says legal proceedings have been started against a union representative and 18 employees including two pilots accused of opening the gates leading to the building where the board meeting was being held.

Libération says the head of the left-leaning CGT union which masterminded the invasion has to shut down Air France if the unionists are finally laid off.

And John Kerry’s refusal to back a legally-binding accord to cut green house gas emissions at the COP 21 climate summit in Paris draws a flurry of reactions from the papers. Kerry landed the bombshell in an article published in the Financial Times on Thursday: “They're not going to be legally-binding reduction targets like Kyoto or something," said Kerry. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius reacted angrily calling the words “unfortunate”.

Le Figaro recalls that the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which committed rich nations to limiting emissions backed by tough compliance provisions, was signed by Washington in 1998 but never ratified. President Hollande reacted with what looked like a rebuke: "If there is not a binding accord, there will not be an accord," he said.

More than 115 heads of state and government are due in Paris on 30 November to secure a deal to stave off catastrophic climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels.

Le Figaro reacted with a note of sarcasm: “There is water in the gas between Paris and Washington,” says the right-wing publication. L’Humanité turns the knife in the wound claiming that John Kerry called “time out on recess”.

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