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Colonialism, Human Rights, and Scoundrels - Page 3

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Colonialism, Human Rights, and Scoundrels
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African Dictators
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African Dictators

Consider now the French FM, Bernard Kouchner – the focus of a controversial book Le Monde Selon K, (The world according to K) by Pierre Péan, which alleges that t Kouchner used his political clout to secure lucrative contracts from two impoverished African countries run by dictators: Gabon and Congo-Brazzaville.

Kouchner, much admired for co-founding the Noble-prize winning Médecins sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders) in 1971, allegedly mixed humanitarian aid with money-making self interests. According to Pean, from 2002 - 2007, Kouchner as a private consultant on health policy for two firms owned by his close associates , Danon and Jacques Baudoin billed Gabon, an oil-rich dirt poor nation run by dictator Omar Bongo, and Congo-Brazzaville (Denis Sassou Nguesso) a total of 4.6 million euros (£4.1 million). The billing was for reports Kouchner a doctor by profession and a former health minister had written on reforming the health insurance systems of the two African nations. Péan claims some of the money was recovered after Kouchner was named foreign minister in May 2007 - in a clear conflict of interest.

Kouchner, a member of the Socialist Party until he left the party to become foreign minister under right-wing president Nicolas Sarkozy, has denied any wrongdoing. "Péan's accusations against me are abominable and grotesque," he said during a parliamentary debate on Feb 4.

A report by IPS news agency confirms that the last payment by the Gabonese government to Kouchner was made when he was already serving as foreign minister, in 2008. In addition, Kouchner has appointed his two friends, the ones with the African connection, to important posts at the foreign ministry. IPS also details real estate holdings in France by the African dictators – totaling millions of dollars and raising red flags on the extent of Kouchner’s involvement with them.

IPS quotes Pean as saying: "What I find reproachful is that Kouchner has cultivated an image of an immaculate knight whose behavior is firmly rooted on ethics. But this image does not fit his business dealings."

That ‘immaculate knight’ image is particularly irksome in the Sri Lankan context because in addition to the shadows of monetary greed and dubitable ethics there’s the issue of Kouchner’s approach to war. Kouchner, called ‘the most dangerous man in Europe’ by one of his critics, has the distinction of being one of the few French leaders to support the Iraq war, on ‘humanitarian’ grounds’ -- a line of reasoning and justification that he would deny to the legitimately elected Sri Lankan government in its effort to eliminate a brutal Pol-Pot type dictator who is holding thousands of civilians in concentration-camp type surroundings .

In 2007, a ‘Freudian slip’ by Kouchner urging that the world be ready to wage war with Iran for its nuclear program made world headlines and he was sharply rebuked for such irresponsible hawkishness by UN's chief nuclear inspector, Mohamed ElBaradei .

As for British Foreign Secretary Miliband, despite his youth, he has mastered, like his French and Swedish colleagues, that remarkable feat of political double speak and is shameless in the way he postures for political gain. In January of this year, just days before President Obama’s inauguration, he started thundering about the US-led war on terror being a ‘mistake.’

“.. the best antidote to the terrorist threat in the long term is cooperation," he declared. A number of newspaper editorials questioned Miliband’s motives, reminding him that British troops were waging a war against al Qaida terrorists in Afghanistan. “The Foreign Secretary's unhelpful comments are prompted more by personal political positioning than anything else,” said the Telegraph.

Miliband’s thunder, however, avoids any mention of the number of civilians being killed by US drones in Pakistan and the continuing intensity of the US-UK-backed war on the Taliban in the midst of civilian populations.


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