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Paris protests reveal fracture between France’s haves and have-nots – National

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PARIS – A grassroots protest movement in France has ballooned and radicalized, unleashing anger that devastated the heart of Paris in weekend riots and revealed a fracture in the country between the haves and have-nots.

Tough talk by unpopular President Emmanuel Macron, who has been roundly blamed for the chaos, isn’t likely to mend the growing sense of social injustice.

Discontent about the rising cost of living among the “little people,” as many protesters call themselves, had been growing, along with a sense of marginalization. The approach of Macron’s fuel tax increases in January, meant to wean the French off fossil fuels, has caused things to snap.

READ MORE: Why France’s ‘yellow vest’ protesters are rioting in Paris and across the country

The weekend violence in Paris, in which more than 130 people were injured and over 400 were arrested, was the worst in the country in decades, officials have said.

The protesters say they want to level a playing field that they believe is tipped in favour of the elite and well-off city dwellers.

The fuel tax “was the spark,” said Thierry Paul Valette, a Paris protest co-ordinator, in an interview. “If it hadn’t been (that), it would have been something else.”

WATCH: Police come under attack during protest at Arc de Triomphe







“People want fair fiscal justice. They want social justice,” he added, as well as improved purchasing power.

Members of the nationwide movement call themselves the “yellow vests,” after the fluorescent safety clothing that all French motorists are obliged to keep in their cars.

“It’s clear the position of President Emmanuel Macron is untenable … contempt for a France that suffers and contempt for a France that’s not doing well,” Valette said.

READ MORE: Protesters angry about rising taxes clash with police in Paris, 81 arrested

The Yellow Vest movement has no leaders but is trying to organize and choose legitimate representatives to negotiate with the government. An attempt to meet last week with Prime Minister Edouard Philippe failed. Reports that another rendezvous announced for Tuesday was cancelled by the protesters could not be immediately confirmed.

The movement, which organized on social media in October, was initially made up of retirees, the self-employed, artisans and others having a hard time making ends meet, often from rural France and in their 30s and 40s, said Sorbonne sociologist Jean-Francois Amadieu, an expert in social movements.

As the government braces for a fourth weekend of protests, discontent spread Monday to ambulance workers and some high schools with students upset about scholastic reforms.

WATCH: French ambulance drivers protest against Macron’s reforms







That’s a danger sign, according to Amadieu, who believes the protests could have been nipped in the bud weeks ago.

He said the 40-year-old Macron, who is surrounded by a young team with little experience, misread the signs of the extent of discontent and failed to understand that refusing to budge on a policy isn’t always the best route to take in France.

“These are people who think you govern a nation like a startup,” Amadieu said.

READ MORE: Paris police fire tear gas as ‘yellow vest’ protests rage over rising fuel costs

Macron, whose popularity is plummeting, is also widely seen as arrogant with a style that ruffles sensitivities, such as telling an unemployed man he can find a job if he “crosses the street,” or advising a retiree not to complain.

“Never has a president communicated like that,” Amadieu said.

The protesters have positioned themselves at strategic roadways, filtering traffic to a slowdown in the protests that began Nov. 17. Three people have died since then, although none in Paris.

Valette blamed the past two weekends of violence on people “usurping the yellow vest.”

WATCH: French police clash with protesters in Paris







On Saturday, shops were looted and cars torched in plush neighbourhoods around the famed Champs-Elysees Avenue. The Arc de Triomphe, which cradles the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and was visited by world leaders last month to mark the centenary of the end of World War I, was besmirched with graffiti and vandalized inside. A 19th century statue was broken.

“The yellow vests will triumph,” one scrawled slogan said.

Amadieu said the violence is seen by many as a necessary means for change.

“We all learned about the taking of the Bastille and the French Revolution. … Change is always through a rapport of force,” he said. “That is, unfortunately, very anchored in France.”

WATCH: Police use tear gas as protests rage against rising fuel prices in France







Some graffiti on the Arc de Triomphe showed that the ultra-right and ultra-left had melded into the movement. But violence already was bubbling up from within.

Jason Herbert, a Yellow Vest representative who met briefly Friday with the prime minister, said he and others who bowed out had received threats from fellow demonstrators, and he said the movement was radicalizing.

“We have all received enormous pressure … threats, be they verbal or physical,” Herbert said. “Our lives are still at stake.”

WATCH: Violent protests continue into the night in Paris over fuel prices







He described those making the threats as people who are “terribly hopeless, terribly miserable, (who) lost everything (because) everything was taken from them.”

Paul Marra, a Yellow Vest in the southern Bouche-du-Rhone around Marseille, warned over the weekend that time is of the essence to end the crisis.

“The longer the executive office waits, the more complicated things will become,” he told the broadcaster BFMTV. He said there would be an “Act 4, Act 5, Act 6,” referring to the Saturday protests.

“Today things have gone too far,” he added.



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Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali

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Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali

Contrary to the expectations of the people, the leadership of the Episcopal Conference of Mali (CEM) has termed the Tuesday, August 18 military coup in the West African nation as “regrettable” and “a big failure for our democracy” and called for a change of mentality if the country has to put an end to coups.

In an interview with ACI Africa Wednesday, August 19, made available to RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA, the President of CEM, Bishop Jonas Dembélé said that the governance challenges the country is facing can be managed through dialogue.

“The military coup that led to the ousting of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta is regrettable because we are in a state of law and democracy. This is the second time that Mali has had a military coup as a result of the way in which the country is governed. It is a big failure for our democracy even if there were reasons for it,” Bishop Dembélé told ACI Africa.

“It is true that our country has serious challenges including bad governance, the poor management of the economy, corruption, insecurity and so on,” Bishop Dembélé said and probed, “Why is it that we Malians have not managed to engage in dialogue to be able to discuss these problems and face up to these challenges responsibly?”

“Our leaders, our people lack transparency, they hate those who speak the truth and advocate for good governance. This mentality must change for our country to move on,” the Prelate told ACI Africa August 19.

Bishop Dembélé who is a frontline member of RECOWA-CERAO urged the military officials “to ensure a return to democracy as promised but most especially ensuring the new leadership of the country put the people first and tackle the security challenges facing the nation.”

Asked about the role of the Church in the current crisis, the 57-year-old Prelate noted, “For us the Catholic Church in Mali, our role is to preach peace; our role is to preach dialogue. We shall continue in this path of dialogue for peace just like Cardinal Jean Zerbo and some religious leaders initiated.”

“In a state of law, power is not in the hands of certain individuals but to the people. The anger of our people led to this crisis, but we must work for peace and reconciliation in Mali,” Bishop Dembélé said.

He continued in recollections, “The Bishops in Mali have always issued messages before every election in our country sounding the alert and inviting the government to organize transparent elections, ensure good governance and better management of resources.”
“But it seems our messages are never taken into consideration that is why we find ourselves in this situation today,” the Local Ordinary of Kayes Diocese told ACI Africa and added, “If the opinion of the Episcopal Conference of Mali is needed to mediate in bringing back stability and peace in the country, then we are ready.”

As a way forward, the Bishop urged the people of God in Mali to “seek the path to conversion” and to accept dialogue in the spirit of truth and honesty.
“We all want change in our

country, but this change can only be possible if individually we seek the path to conversion. It is for Malians be they Muslims or Christians or members of traditional religion, to do an examination of conscience and accept personal and community conversion in order to engage in sincere dialogue,” he said.

The Malian Prelate added, “Now there is this coup d’état to demand change we really wonder where change should come from. As long as we don’t change our behavior, our mentality, we will always have a repeat of the current situation.”

On Tuesday, August 18, President Keita announced his resignation and dissolved parliament hours after mutinying soldiers detained him at gunpoint, Aljazeera reported.
“For seven years, I have with great joy and happiness tried to put this country on its feet. If today some people from the armed forces have decided to end it by their intervention, do I have a choice? I should submit to it because I do not want any blood to be shed,” President Keita said August 18 during the televised address to the nation.

Rev. Fr. George Nwachukwu
RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA

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Harris accepts VP nomination

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Harris accepts VP nomination

Senator Kamala Harris formally accepted the Democratic nomination for vice president on Wednesday following a scathing speech by former President Barack Obama, who said the fate of the nation” depends entirely on the outcome of this election.”

Both Mr. Obama and Harris stressed the importance of voting, with Harris saying “we’re all in this fight together.” Harris sounded an optimistic note by highlighting her personal history and the promise of America, saying she was “so inspired by a new generation.”

“Make no mistake, the road ahead will not be not easy,” she said. “We will stumble. We may fall short. But I pledge to you that we will act boldly and deal with our challenges honestly. We will speak truths. And we will act with the same faith in you that we ask you to place in us.” She called Mr. Trump a “predator” in a speech that came after Mr. Obama issued his most forceful rebuke of his successor to date, saying Mr. Trump “hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t.”

“This president and those in power — those who benefit from keeping things the way they are — they are counting on your cynicism,” Mr. Obama said. “They know they can’t win you over with their policies. So they’re hoping to make it as hard as possible for you to vote, and to convince you that your vote doesn’t matter.

That’s how they win. That’s how they get to keep making decisions that affect your life, and the lives of the people you love. That’s how the economy will keep getting skewed to the wealthy and well-connected, how our health systems will let more people fall through the cracks. That’s how a democracy withers, until it’s no democracy at all.”

Mr. Obama and Hillary Clinton, speaking earlier in the night, both said they had hoped Mr. Trump would rise to the occasion. But they both stressed what they called his failures while in office, with Mr. Obama saying Mr. Trump has shown “no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.”

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Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself

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Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself

The Malian soldiers who forced President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to resign in a coup promised early Wednesday to organize new elections after their takeover was swiftly condemned by the international community.

In a statement carried overnight on state broadcaster ORTM, the mutinous soldiers who staged Tuesday’s military coup identified themselves as the National Committee for the Salvation of the People led by Colonel Major Ismael Wagué.

“With you, standing as one, we can restore this country to its former greatness,” Wagué said, announcing that borders were closed and that a curfew was going into effect from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m

The news of Keita’s departure was met with jubilation by anti-government demonstrators in the capital, Bamako, and alarm by former colonial ruler France and other allies and foreign nations.

The U.N. Security Council scheduled a closed meeting Wednesday August 19, 2020 afternoon to discuss the unfolding situation in Mali, where the U.N. has a 15,600-strong peacekeeping mission. Keita, who was democratically elected in a 2013 landslide and re-elected five years later, still had three years left in his term.

But his popularity had plummeted, and demonstrators began taking to the streets calling for his ouster in June.

West African regional bloc ECOWAS had sent mediators to try and negotiate a unity government but those talks fell apart when it became clear that the protesters would not accept less than Keita’s resignation.

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