News

France Extends State of Emergency

Lisa Bryant

The French government has approved a bill extending the country's state of emergency for three more months, despite signs riots that have swept the country are now subsiding.

Ministers from France's center-right government meeting Monday morning decided to extend the state of emergency for 90 more days, starting November 21 - when the temporary state of emergency announced last week is set to expire. The decree would allow French regions and towns to declare curfews to help end more than two weeks of rioting that has roiled the country since October 27. It must still be approved by the country's majority center-right parliament.

The riots were sparked by the accidental deaths by electrocution of two ethnic immigrant youths who were apparently hiding from police. It has sparked soul searching about the country's effectiveness in integrating millions of second-and third-generation immigrants, particularly those from North and West Africa.

The violence has abated since the state of emergency was declared last week.

French police announced that only 284 vehicles had been torched overnight Sunday, compared to 374 the night before - and a peak of more than 1,000 vehicles burned in a single night just a week ago.

The 50-year-old law, first enacted during Algeria's war of independence from France, has sparked protests on the part of human rights groups and other critics. But some analysts, like Steven Ekovich, a French politics professor at the American University of Paris, say the government has little choice but to mix tough measures to stop the violence with long-term effort to find solutions for its causes.

"There are several levels to the current crisis, one of them immediate - something has to be done. And nearly all the french agree - something has to be done to stop the violence, to stop the rampaging. To stop a race riot - because this is a race riot," he said.

At the same time, Mr. Ekovich says, there is consensus that the government must address long-term issues like unemployment, alienation, the difficulty of integrating second-and third-immigrant youths that has helped fuel the recent wave of unrest.

French President Jacques Chirac is due to appear on television Monday night to talk about the violence, in his first formal address to the nation since the riots began late last month.

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