France's 'blind support' for Mali's regime blamed for helping trigger coup

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A press conference in Bamako given by the soldiers who took power in Mali, August 19th 2020. © MALIK KONATE / AFP A press conference in Bamako given by the soldiers who took power in Mali, August 19th 2020. © MALIK KONATE / AFP

While the authorities in Paris knew that the position of Mali's president Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta was weak, they were not expecting the military coup that led to his resignation on August 18th. France's recent unyielding stance in negotiations between Mali's government and opposition, and its unflagging support for prime minister Boubou Cissé, are meanwhile now being highlighted as potential causes of the current crisis. Some observers say that without France's 'blind' support for the Malian government the soldiers might not have staged the coup at all. Rémi Carayol reports.

A lesson for our times: Tatiana Plyushch, the woman who faced down the KGB

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Tatiana Plyushch at her home at Bessèges in the south of France, June 16th 2020. © F.Bt/Mediapart Tatiana Plyushch at her home at Bessèges in the south of France, June 16th 2020. © F.Bt/Mediapart

Were it not for his wife Tatiana, Ukrainian mathematician and Soviet dissident Leonid Plyushch would almost certainly never have survived the special psychiatric hospital were he was locked up in 1973. Thanks to her endless, uncompromising campaigning, aided by strong international support, this Ukrainian intellectual eventually forced the Soviet regime to give way, and Leonid Plyushch and his family were freed into exile in January 1976. Leonid died in 2015 but Tatiana Plyushch still lives in their adopted village in the south of France, where Mediapart's François Bonnet went to meet her.

Macron discreetly rewards friends and allies during summer break

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Emmanuel Macron and his political ally François Bayrou in January 2020. © AFP Emmanuel Macron and his political ally François Bayrou in January 2020. © AFP

As a presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron insisted he wanted to dispense with the old ways of doing politics. Yet over this summer President Macron has approved a series of appointments of loyal followers and advisers as well as political allies who have faced difficulties but whose support he may need. And as Manuel Jardinaud reports, this form of presidential patronage is exactly what French presidents have always done.

Portuguese housekeepers describe daily ordeal of working for France's upper classes

By Mickaël Correia
A typcal housekeeping scene in France; housekeeper Christelle. © Julien Pitinome: Collectif L'Oeil- collectif La Friche A typcal housekeeping scene in France; housekeeper Christelle. © Julien Pitinome: Collectif L'Oeil- collectif La Friche

France's upper classes look upon housemaids and housekeepers from Portugal as the most honest of domestic staff and as “pearls who they must hold on to at all costs”. Yet behind the walls of these families' sumptuous properties there lurks another world; one in which class differences are very much alive. Mediapart has spoken to Portuguese maids and housekeepers working in the north of France and heard their stories of long hours, unrelenting toil and penny-pinching employers. Mickaël Correia reports.

Modern Turkey and its 'neo-Ottoman' dreams in the Balkans

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Turks from the Balkans gather at Pristina in Kosovo in March 2014. © Mamusa Municipality/Anadolu Agency/AFP Turks from the Balkans gather at Pristina in Kosovo in March 2014. © Mamusa Municipality/Anadolu Agency/AFP

The recent decision by France to bolster its naval presence in the eastern Mediterranean because of controversial Turkish oil and gas exploration in disputed waters is a reminder of how Ankara has been starting to flex its muscles outside its borders. Meanwhile Turkey has been quietly extending its economic influence in the Balkans, an area it once controlled under the Ottoman Empire but where it lost power after wars in 1912 and 1913 and then World War I. Jean-Arnault Dérens looks at Turkey's growing influence in the region a century after the end of its empire.

French wine bottle producer sheds workers as it hands out €100m in dividends

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Representatives of the CGT trade union who work at the Verallia glass-making factory at Cognac, August 19th 2020. © MJ Representatives of the CGT trade union who work at the Verallia glass-making factory at Cognac, August 19th 2020. © MJ

The global glass packaging firm Verallia produces two-thirds of new wine bottles in France and despite the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic it recently announced pre-tax earnings of 299 million euros for the first half of the year and paid out 100 million euros in dividends, most in the form of shares. Yet the company, which is owned by a New York-based private equity firm, has also announced a restructuring plan in France which will see the closure of one of its furnaces and the loss of more than a hundred jobs. Manuel Jardinaud reports on the mood of the company's workers in Cognac in south-west France as they fight to save their jobs.

Anger as France's overseas territories lose their dedicated TV channel

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The public broadcaster television channel France Ô was created to showcase the programmes and culture of France's overseas territories to Metropolitan France and provide a link between the country's mainland and its far-flung lands. But now the government in Paris has decided to axe the channel, which has been getting very low viewing figures. It will broadcast for the last time on August 23rd. Ministers insist that the channel will be replaced by a new online portal and that programmes about the overseas territories, from the Caribbean to the Indian Ocean and the Pacific, will be shown in greater numbers on existing public broadcast channels. But as Julien Sartre reports, many fear that France's overseas territories may simply become “invisible” once more.

Rwandan genocide suspect Aloys Ntiwiragabo 'has lived in France for 14 years'

By Théo Englebert
An undated photo of Aloys Ntiwiragabo from a report by NGO African Rights. An undated photo of Aloys Ntiwiragabo from a report by NGO African Rights.

In July Mediapart revealed that Rwandan colonel Aloys Ntiwiragabo, who is suspected of playing an important role in the 1994 genocide against the Tutsis, was now living in Orléans in France. Now we can reveal that the former head of Rwandan military intelligence has been living here for at least 14 years. Yet, curiously, paperwork acknowledging his request for political asylum in France was only sent to him in February 2020. The fact that his asylum application has only been made recently raises questions about what Aloys Ntiwiragabo's status had been in the meantime - and whether he had received discreet support. Théo Englebert reports.

 

The cruel conditions of two academics detained in Iran

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A poster placed in front of Paris City Hall in support of Fariba Adelkhah. © BERTRAND GUAY / AFP A poster placed in front of Paris City Hall in support of Fariba Adelkhah. © BERTRAND GUAY / AFP

Two academics, one from the prestigious Paris Sciences Po school of political sciences, the other from Melbourne University’s Asia Institute, are currently detained in atrocious conditions in separate prisons in Iran. Anthropologist Fariba Adelkhah, who has joint French-Iranian nationality, is serving a five-year sentence at the notorious Evin prison in Tehran for allegedly violating the country’s national security, and Kylie Moore-Gilbert, a lecturer in Islamic studies with joint British-Australian nationality, is serving a ten-year sentence for alleged espionage at Iran’s harshest women’s prison located in desert land south of the capital. Both strongly proclaim their innocence, but appear trapped in what their colleagues believe is a ruthless game of hostage taking and prisoner swaps. Jean-Pierre Perrin reports.

New French law restricting movement of released terrorists 'unconstitutional'

In a definitive ruling, France’s Constitutional Council has thrown out legislation adopted by parliament late last month which imposed restrictions on the movement of prisoners released after serving sentences for terrorism-related offences. The ruling by the Council, which found the law to be unconstitutional for its infringement of fundamental freedoms, represents a significant blow for both President Emmanuel Macron’s governing LREM party, and in particular for justice minister Éric Dupond-Moretti, a high-profile defence lawyer until his appointment in early July.

Recurring droughts prompt calls for change in French farming methods

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In the Limousin region, a farmer feeds silage to his cattle which can no longer graze on parched pasture land. © AFP In the Limousin region, a farmer feeds silage to his cattle which can no longer graze on parched pasture land. © AFP

As France sizzles this weekend under an extreme heatwave, data shows that July this year saw the lowest rainfall in the country since that of 1959, and the scorched land is witnessing a severe drought that is now threatening the future of many farmers. In face of what has become a recurrent problem over recent years, some agronomists are calling for urgent and radical changes to conventional agricultural practices. Amélie Poinssot reports.

Revealed: Machiavelli never wrote nor believed that 'the end justifies the means'

By Jean-Christophe Piot
A portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527) by Santi di Tito. © dr A portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527) by Santi di Tito. © dr

“The end justifies the means” is a well-known phrase that for many represents the height of political cynicism, a notion that justifies any crime, and is very often thought to have been first used by Italian Renaissance diplomat, political philosopher and writer Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli. Indeed, to be “Machiavellian” is to be underhand, cunning, unscrupulous and scheming. But, as Jean-Christophe Piot sets out here, the much-maligned Florentine thinker never wrote nor believed in the phrase that has been stuck to him.

French unions warn of 'social timebomb' over Daimler sale of Smart factory

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Staff gathered at the entrance of the Smart factory in Hambach, north-east France, July 9th. © J-C. Verhaegen / AFP Staff gathered at the entrance of the Smart factory in Hambach, north-east France, July 9th. © J-C. Verhaegen / AFP

German carmaking giant Daimler, owner of Mercedes-Benz, announced last month that it was to sell off its factory in Hambach, north-east France, where the Smart city car, another of the group’s marques, has been produced since 1997. Five years ago, staff at the plant accepted a management plan to abandon the legal 35-hour week, working a 39-hour week (excluding overtime) in return for job security. But now the 1,600 jobs at the site, turned over to making electric versions of the city car, are at risk, with just one potential purchaser in view: British company Ineos, which plans to produce a diesel-guzzling offroader. Dan Israel reports.

The children who vanish from Charles de Gaulle airport

By Leïla Miñano (Investigate Europe)
An aerial view of Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle airport. © MUSTAFA YALCIN / Anadolu Agency via AFP An aerial view of Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle airport. © MUSTAFA YALCIN / Anadolu Agency via AFP

Over recent years there have been numerous cases of unaccompanied Vietnamese minors who have simply disappeared after arriving in France at the main Paris airport of Roissy-Charles de Gaulle. Although supposed to be placed into the safe care of social services, the children are in fact led away by ruthless people traffickers, to be kept in conditions of slavery. This report was compiled in partnership with the journalistic collective Investigate Europe.

Why France's new interior minister must go

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Newly appointed French interior minister Gérald Darmanin. © NurPhoto via AFP Newly appointed French interior minister Gérald Darmanin. © NurPhoto via AFP

In a French government reshuffle earlier this month, former junior budget minister Gérald Darmanin, under investigation over rape allegations, was given the senior post of interior minister. Darmanin, 37, a loyal ally of former president Nicolas Sarkozy who has been sent for future trial on separate counts of corruption and illegal election campaign spending, has since caused widespread outrage with his comments on the issue of police violence and racial and religious tensions. In this op-ed article, Mediapart publishing editor Edwy Plenel argues why not only Darmanin’s appointment should never have taken place, but why he should now be dismissed in the name of the morality required of public office.