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Financial Post, Weekly edition, Fri 08 Jul 94, page 7

Keywords: Economic summits Foreign relations Conferences Foreign aid Armed forces France Group of Seven Francois Mitterrand

Mitterrand's G-7 sermon will fall on deaf ears

John Bierman

President Francois Mitterrand of France is planning to deliver a lecture - you might even call it a sermon - to his colleagues of the Group of Seven when they meet in Naples this weekend. His text will be the urgent need for what he calls a "development contract, based on a new international ethical-moral code" between the industrialized countries of the North and the developing countries of the South.

According to a syndicated article bearing his byline, Mitterrand wants to see the emergence of "a single global view on development" to match the single global view on the environment that emerged from the 1992 Rio summit. The rules of the market, plus humanitarian assistance, he argues, are just not enough to cope with the desperate poverty of so much of the world. And it's in the long-term interest of the wealthy to make sure that the poor countries of the South do not stay on the fringe.

So far so good, and under normal circumstances Mitterrand's little lecture might be expected to drag out of the G-7 some ringing declaration of intent which - like so much that emerges from their annual get-togethers - will turn out to be absolutely meaningless. But coming as it does from a statesman who is currently showing his concern for the travails of the Third World by a highly questionable "humanitarian" intervention in Rwanda, Mitterrand's proposal may provoke only hollow, if concealed, laughter.

It's true, of course, that French troops in Rwanda have rescued a handful of nuns and taken under their protective wing a few pathetic Tutsi survivors straggling out of the bush to escape their French-armed and, some of them, French-trained Hutu attackers. But overall, their actions have tended to confirm that their overriding objective is exactly what skeptics suspected all along - to protect and preserve their client Rwandan government of Hutu extremists.

Rather than disbanding the killer militias and dismantling the road blocks at which they continue to catch Tutsi stragglers trying to escape, the French have been working closely with them and their sponsors. As the French commander, Col. Didier Thibaut, has said of his chummy relationship with Rwandan officials directly linked by numerous eyewitnesses to the murder of many Tutsi, some members of the administration might have blood on their hands "but it's not my job to replace these people."

After the Tutsi rebels of the Rwanda Patriotic Front captured the capital, Kigali, and the second city, Butare, this week, the French became even more directly involved on one side of the civil war by declaring a "no-entry" zone in the west of the country, bordering Zaire, and warning the advancing rebel army not to dare try to enter. Ostensibly, this zone was to be a safe haven for civilians of whatever tribe, but the RPF could be forgiven for believing that it was a shelter for the killers of their people.

Meanwhile, as France continued her mission civilisatrice in Rwanda, Mitterrand himself was in South Africa, promising to give Nelson Mandela's fledgling multiracial democracy all possible moral and practical assistance. As he did so, scores of French commercial and cultural outriders, present as part of Mitterrand's huge entourage, were scouting for contracts and connections in this most promising part of Africa, where up to now France has been little involved.

It was a bravura performance all round and a major diplomatic coup for the French, ever hungry to extend their influence and interests in the Dark Continent. But Mandela was noticeably noncommital when journalists asked him to comment on events in Rwanda. He had at all costs to avoid offending his distinguished guest, but plainly he didn't like the French intervention.

None of which will give the rest of the G-7 any grounds for feelings of moral superiority when Mitterrand delivers his North-South lecture in Naples this weekend. The slaughter of up to half the entire Tutsi population of Rwanda, in what a United Nations human rights investigator has called a deliberate, planned operation by the government, is clearly genocide, and on a scale unequalled since the Nazi Holocaust.

But none of the G-7 governments will dare to utter the G-word, for fear that to do so would obligate them, under UN resolution, to intervene. On the side of the victims, that is.

DNOTE (Ed. note) John Bierman is a foreign correspondent for The Financial Post.

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