Magazine article New African

France/Africa: No More Mercenaries: Paris Is Fed Up with Being Embarrassed by the Mercenary Activities of French Nationals in Africa, and It Has Promised to Clamp Down Hard on Such Activities

Magazine article New African

France/Africa: No More Mercenaries: Paris Is Fed Up with Being Embarrassed by the Mercenary Activities of French Nationals in Africa, and It Has Promised to Clamp Down Hard on Such Activities

Article excerpt

With the recent arrest in Paris of 11 mercenaries who were preparing to assassinate the Ivorian president, Laurent Gbagbo, the French government now says it will no longer allow the kind of free-wheeling mercenary activity long associated with the French Fifth Republic, to go on unchecked.

Paris will now stringently apply a new law passed last April to clamp down on mercenary activities by French nationals. The new law stipulates a mandatory 7-year jail term and/or a 100,000 Euro fine.

At the end of August, a mercenary commando group made up of 10 French nationals was arrested at Roissy-Charles de Gaulle Airport, on its way to Cote d'Ivoire to help rebels stage a military coup against President Gbagbo.

According to the Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire (DST), the French equivalent of the American FBI, the 11th mercenary was arrested a week after the 10 were arrested. He, too, was preparing to go in Cete d'Ivoire for the same purpose, All of them, the DST added, were planning to assassinate President Gbagbo.

The announcement of the arrests stung the French government into action, forcing it to warn publicly that it would no longer countenance the kind of free-wheeling mercenary activity long-associated with the French Fifth Republic and the notorious Jacques Foccart, General de Gaulle's right hand man who was often referred to as the "Emperor" of Africa and was so powerful he could make or break regimes in France's former colonies.

Until now, French mercenaries had had a free hand in taking part in military operations in Africa, not only because of the support of successive French governments going back to 1958, but also because no effective laws existed until the one passed last April. …

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