African 'criminals' in French parade angers NGOs
Rights groups plan a protest against African armies joining in France's July 14 national parade, alleging that some of them are led by war criminals, officials said Thursday.
Troops from countries whose military leaders are accused of massacres and other atrocities are to join in the Bastille Day parade, said a grouping led by the non-governmental organisations Survie and Sortir Du Colonialisme.
"On the one hand, there is July 14, the celebration of liberty, fraternity and equality. On the other, there is parade where there will be troops led by criminals," said Patrick Farbiaz of Sortir du Colonialisme.
The coalition of 75 NGOs are organising a demonstration in Paris on July 13, the eve of the Bastille Day parade.
Benjamin Moutsila, a representative of a Congolese civil group, called it a "parade of shame."
Survie's president Odile Biyidi at a news conference accused France of organising "a scandalous commemoration, held on the national day, of the 50th anniversary of pseudo-independence."
Among the guest countries is Congo, whose authorities the groups accuse of massacring refugees in 1999.
Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso is due to line up alongside 11 other African heads of state and France's Nicolas Sarkozy to watch the troops parade down Paris's Champs Elysees.
Niger will also take part, five months after a military junta seized power in a coup, as will Chad, whose army is among several in Africa to be accused of using child soldiers.
Of France's 14 former African colonies, only Ivory Coast will not take part.
The former colonies' attendance is to mark the 50th anniversary of their independence and reflects their ongoing special relationship with Paris, known as "Francafrique."
© 2010 AFP