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Press review Rwanda Paul Kagame Mali Kurds Turkey

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French press review 29 January 2018


Can Rwandan president Paul Kagame successfully bring his domestic brand of benign dictatorship to the chairmanship of the African Union? Are men getting better or worse? What has the French military presence in Mali achieved in five years? And are the Kurds any closer to having their right to a home internationally recognised?

Le Monde looks at Paul Kagame, Rwanda's current president and the man named yesterday to head the African Union for the next 12 months.

The AU needs a tough leader to ensure the continuity of its institutional reform process, the paper argues. The question is whether the authoritarian methods which have been Kagame's trademark in Rwanda will work on the wider continental stage.

Le Monde bluntly accuses the Tutsi former rebel leader of coldness and brutality, saying that Kagame has played a crucial part in the destabilisation of central Africa, especially of the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo. He has also been very good at ensuring that his tiny nation of just 12 million inhabitants has expanded its influence in the 55-country AU.

At home he behaves like a benign dictator, Le Monde says, more interested in economic development than the spreading of democratic principles. Rwanda has seen its economic growth rate soar to eight percent, before settling at a still remarkable six percent. Kagame won last year's election with 98 percent of all votes cast. He's likely to be in the top job in Kigali until 2034.

He has the advantage of a reputation as a tough talker when dealing with the former colonial powers. He's the face of modern Africa and has drawn his team of advisors from the ranks of the African Development Bank, the United Nations and the financial consultants McKinsey.

Fifty Shades of Grey?

Le Monde devotes a special feature to the vexed question of sexual relations, pointing to the grey area which can exist between consent and rape.

As in the case of one young victim who admits that she submitted to sex not because of physical violence but because of psychological pressure. The article concludes that men are the same as they've ever been. But women have changed.

French military involvement in Mali

The main story in conservative daily Le Figaro looks back over five years of French military involvement in Mali, finding that the regional influence of Al-Qaida remains poisonously effective and has destroyed the influence of central government over large swathes of territory technically "liberated" by French soldiers. Local people in northern Mali have now begun to regard the French as an occupying army.

The influence of the authorities in Algeria is not always clearly helpful to the cause of regional peace. The current Malian government is far from exemplary.

Le Figaro's editorial says the real problem, as is always the case, will be winning the peace. Afghanistan and Iraq have proved that military victory is not enough. And Mali will remain a major problem until a legitimate state can be established, based on respect for all the nation's peoples and communities.

Further steps towards Kurdish autonomy

Le Figaro also asks how far are we from international recognition for the Kurdish parts of Turkey, Iraq and Syria.

The question comes in the wake of a decision by Washington to train 30,000 militia fighgers to protect the Kurdish regions in northern Syria. The main aim of the United States may well be to secure the border with Turkey against the infiltration into Syria of would-be Islamist fighters. But Ankara sees it as yet another international gesture in favour of Kurdish autonomy.

France has indicated that it has no fundamental problem with jihadist fighters currently detained in Kurdish jails being tried locally, another diplomatic gesture which the Turkish autorities see as adding to Kurdish credibility.

The Turkish authorities have responded by attacking Kurdish positions. The Western alliance fighting against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq has, so far, looked the other way, since Turkish cooperation remains crucial in controlling the flow of both immigrants and former holy warriors into Europe.

There are, of course, crucial divergences within the Kurdish community itself. Those in Iraq want to be independent; those in Syria say they want only increased autonomy within the current state system.