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Former French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner on CAR intervention: ‘Were we supposed to let them die?’

December 18th, 2013
09:24 AM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

The former French foreign minister issued an impassioned plea on Tuesday for the world to follow France’s lead in protecting populations under imminent threat from war.

France, in dramatic fashion, has been at the forefront of intervening in deadly conflicts over the past few years, whether in Libya, Mali, or now Central African Republic.

“We are human beings, protecting human life,” Bernard Kouchner, who served under President Nicolas Sarkozy, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.

“Were we supposed to let them die?”

There are 1,600 French troops now in Central African Republic under United Nations mandate, assisting African Union forces; two French soldiers were killed there last week.

The U.N. says more than 200,000 people are being forced to flee their homes in Central African Republic, where hundreds have been killed in sectarian violence between Muslim rebels, who ousted the president in May, and Christian militias.

France, Kouchner said, is simply applying the principle that one should intervene before, “not after the bloodbath, not after the killing.”

“There was no choice, no choice.”

He was referring to the “Responsibility to Protect,” a U.N. initiative enshrined in 2005 that called on the “international community” to protect civilian populations from “genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing, and their incitement.”

French President Francois Hollande, in an interview with Amanpour in September, emphasized that France is not trying to “apply its ambitions” around the world.

It is a point that Kouchner echoed.

“We are not the police of the world,” he said.

The United States, he said, was, “more or less the police of the world, for good or bad reason. … We are not arrogant enough to try to replace your country, not at all, not at all.”

Kouchner was also the founder of the humanitarian organizations Medecins du Monde (Doctors of the World) and Medecins sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders).

“This necessity to protect human life,” he said, “was born in France among the French doctors.”

And he was also in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide that resulted in the swift deaths of nearly a million people.

At the time, the international norms governing intervention hardly existed, he said.

“Now,” he said, “we don't have to ask for excuse[s] to say, ‘Oh, sorry, but we are protecting human life.’”

soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. france?

    These politicians are a disgrace to humanity. How can you claim this necessity to save lives when more than 100,000 people have died in Syria, and countries like France are prolonging the conflict by delivering arms. A bunch of hypocrites, nothing more.

    December 18, 2013 at 11:32 am | Reply
    • yes France!

      France does not failed syria, they had the plan to intervene and stop the war in syria. But suddenly the Russia, Iran, and US start fighting afor their own interest.

      Look at Mali, they were heading Into a civil war crisis, but france intervene and stopped that. Now Mali have a president who is choosen by the will of the people. I don't see the the point of blaming france for doing what the has to do.

      December 20, 2013 at 4:25 pm | Reply
  2. mathias

    the funny thing about this issue is that, for many years people in congo have been dying, every couple of years a new rebel groups pops up, backed by western Multinationals, they control mining sites and key strategic areas, while, France, Belgium, Dutch, and many other Multinationals plunder and loot resources, one of which is Coltan, a key mineral used in Mobile Phone manufacturing. nobody has done anything, i really dont get it, its like , we africans are so stupid, that we get treated like puppets and we just follow suit, when are going to wake up, when are we going to realise, we are being used and when our usage is no more, we get spat, like all other allies of west, so stupid its annoying to the gut

    December 18, 2013 at 12:15 pm | Reply
    • Patrice Ayme

      France, like the UN, is on the side of those who want to stop the Coltan war: Rwanda was the front for sending the material to phone makers, France on the side of Congo, which wants to tax its own mineral, Coltan.

      December 31, 2013 at 9:07 pm | Reply
  3. Gary

    I applaud any country finally standing up and stopping mass murders. Not that the U.N. will ever do a thing to stop it, that might look politically correct, oh no.
    Besides, who died and made the U.S. the World Policeman? Russia & China won't do anything, they are busy selling the arms. And I for one, am tired of seeing the U.S. try to clean up other people's messes. Stand up Europe, & Africa, clean up your own backyard.

    December 18, 2013 at 1:50 pm | Reply
  4. Albert D. Peabody

    If we all emulate what the French have done, the world would be a better place. We sat still in the Rwanda democide, and lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Nobody bashed Bush for invading Iraq on information based supinely on lies. Then, why did the Republicans bashed Obama and sabotaged his efforts to send warships near Syria, when the information that Assad had gassed his own people was true? Had it been a white president, Assad would have been out of Syria. Wake up America!.

    December 18, 2013 at 4:24 pm | Reply
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