Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Follow-Up: Breaking News on the Hotel Ivoire Incident - Le Figaro Counterattacks

Responding to the allegations made by Ivorian Colonel Georges Guiai Bi Poin in his November 28 interview with AFP, the French daily Le Figaro today published a sort of hit piece on the Colonel presenting him as a tool of Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo. Indeed, the title of the article is "Laurent Gbagbo Rekindles his Polemic with Paris" with the sub-title "the President accuses the French Army" - as if Guiai Bi Poin was Gbagbo. Hewing obediently to the line established by the French government, Le Figaro thus tacitly placed Guiai Bi Poin's AFP interview in the context of an alleged campaign of "disinformation" that French defense minister Michèle Alliot-Marie - even while now making major concessions to the Ivorian version of events - continues to insist is being conduct by the Ivorian government. The suggestion that Gbagbo had orchestrated the AFP interview as part of this campaign is particularly bizarre in light of the fact that, as the Figaro article itself notes, the Colonel first went public with his charges in an interview published in the Ivorian press on November 17 [link in French]. If the French new agency nearly two weeks later finally decided to devote a story to his allegations, it is hardly plausible to assume that this is somehow Laurent Gbagbo's doing.

The Figaro article describes Guiai Bi Poin as a "loyal follower of Laurent Gbagbo" who "counts in the eyes of the French Army as a regime hardliner" - with only the "eyes of the French Army" being offered as proof of this characterization. The second to last paragraph, continuing to employ the conceit according to which Guiai Bi Poin would, in effect, be nothing but a Gbago proxy, reads as follows:

In rekindling the polemic in the medias, President Gbagbo simply forgets a series of little prior details: the aerial bombardment of the French camp at Bouaké (9 dead), the firing of a RPG7 [rocket] on a Transall [French military aircraft] on the runway at Abidjan airport, the pillage of homes, the rape of some French women by Ivorians in uniform, the sacking of French schools, etc.

Whether or not all or some of these "little details" are true, they have nothing to do with the question of whether French troops opened fire on unarmed civilians at the Hotel Ivoire. The fact that the Figaro author, Renaud Girard, lists them here thus strongly suggests not an attempt to discredit Colonel Guia Bi Poin's allegation that such took place, but rather one, in effect, to justify its having taken place.

The article concludes: "For the moment, it is, to say the least, curious that Gbagbo, after having irremediably compromised his country's economy, continues to indulge in such little games in the media...."

Note that this is supposed to be a news item.

(P.S. For more on Le Figaro in this connection see my remarks in the comments section.)