A little over a week ago, a French raid in Algeria to free an aid worker, Michael Germaneau, failed. He was already dead, and perhaps even dead before they got there.
Global Voices had a nice roundup of some of the African sources on this raid, one of which cited the quote I used for the title here.
Both France’s military and aid programs in Northern Africa has often been contentious (probably an understatement). Just a few years ago, French aid workers were jailed in Chad on child trafficking charges, where France has intervened militarily several times in the past decade. David Leonard has argued that there are reasons for cautious optimism about France’s evolving military role in Africa. At least, he seems to say, both the French military and French civil society seem to be more reflective about the nature of their interventions.
But the question the blogosphere seems to be asking is how fragile French relations with this part of Africa actually is. Were there clear winners or losers in this failed raid? France is clearly not a winner, having failed at getting the hostage, facing allegation that it negotiated with the al Qaida-affiliated group that held Germaneau, and having upset local politicians. One thing I would like to know is the extent to which Algerian muslims are identifying with the al-Qaida-affiliated groups in the region. But other than possibly increasing local opposition to France and the West, it is also unclear what the hostage-takers possibly got out of this. One possible winner? The US military’s counter-terrorism training program in the region seems more important than ever.