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French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique: Ministers Appointed for Skills or as Tokens?

Before his election as the 24th President of the French Republic, left-wing candidate Francois Hollande, had promised a new government with two specificities: an equal number of women and men and ministers – and from all ethnic and cultural backgrounds.

With a great majority of voters for candidate Hollande in the presidential elections hailing from the overseas regions, French-Caribbean bloggers were impatient to see which French Guyanese, Martinican or Guadeloupean politicians would be assigned a key government ministry.

Prior to the official announcement on May 16th 2012, a Guadeloupean blogger at Indiscrétions [fr] thought it was unlikely that Christiane Taubira would get any major position:

Christiane Taubiraby, image taken from her own blog. Photo by Jean Francois Robert. Visit Taubira's blog @http://chtaubira.tumblr.com/

Christiane Taubiraby, image taken from her own blog. Photo by Jean Francois Robert. Visit Taubira's blog @http://chtaubira.tumblr.com/

La guyanaise Christiane Taubira, qu'on a entendu et réentendu en boucle sur les médias oraux nationaux le 10 mai, pourrait être ministre. Un ministère symbolique, tout comme sa présence d'ailleurs. Car, malheureusement, on ne donne que des fonctions symboliques aux ressortissants d'outre-mer quand on les prend au gouvernement. A quand un vrai ministère, comme le Budget ou l'Agriculture ?

French Guyanese Christiane Taubira, whom we have heard over and over again on French national media, on May 10th, could become a minister – of a token ministry, just like her presence by the way. Because, unfortunately when French Overseas-born are appointed in the government, it is only to be in charge of minor ministries. When will they be assigned significant positions as Minister of Budget and Public Finances or Minister of Agriculture?

This time around things are different and as Martinican Bel Balawou announces [fr]:

Christiane Taubira originaire de la Guyane, a été nommée ministre de la justice et garde des sceaux dans le gouvernement de Jean-Marc Ayrault.

Christiane Taubira, born in French Guyana, was appointed as the Minister of Justice in the government of Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault.

Guyanese blogger at Blada reposts [fr] some of the official messages sent to congratulate the newly-appointed, but expresses, nevertheless, some mixed feelings:

Deux raisons de faire sauter les bouchons de champagne sous les palmiers… ou d'avaler cul sec un bol de vinaigre lorsqu'on a une haute idée de ce que peut être la justice.

Two reasons to pop bottles of champagne under the palm trees [Ed: of Cayenne, French Guyana]…or to drink bottoms up, a glass of vinegar, when you hold justice in high esteem.
Official government publicity photo of George Pau Langevin taken from her profile on the website of the French National Assembly (http://www.assemblee-nationale.fr/)

Official government publicity photo of George Pau Langevin taken from her profile on the website of the French National Assembly (http://www.assemblee-nationale.fr/)

Bel Balawou also congratulates [fr] George Pau Langevin, a Guadeloupean-born political woman who was chosen to become the Junior Minister in charge of Education Achievement.

Among these well-acclaimed assignments, reactions to the appointment of Victorin Lurel to the Ministry of the Overseas Departments is discordant. Guadeloupean blogger at Carib Creole News publishes a post entitled “Victorin Lurel, Last Minister of the Last Colonies [fr] in which he denounces the inconsistencies of the new Minister:

Lurel ministre, qui s’en étonne ? Personne. Lurel ministre des « outremers» (à CCN nous disons des Dernières Colonies : MDC) c’est la big surprise. Notre ex président de Région avait toujours clamé urbi et orbi, qu’il ne souhaitait surtout pas, ce ministère qu’il considérait comme « dévalué ».
Sa « préférence » allait vers l’agriculture ou les collectivités territoriales. Mais il semble bien que Lurel n’ait guère eu la possibilité de choisir.

Lurel is one of the Ministers, is it a surprise? Absolutely not. Lurel is the minister of the “Overseas” regions (at CCN, we say of the Last Colonies: MLC), here is the big surprise. The former president of our former local executive, had loudly proclaimed all over the place that, he definitely did not want this ministry which he regarded as “underrated”.
He declared he would prefer ministries like the ones in charge of agriculture or devolved administrations. Yet, it seems that he did not have a choice.

In this same post, CCN reminds his readers that since the 2009 social crisis in Guadeloupe, Lurel who was then member of the left-wing parliamentary opposition to Sarkozy's government, never stopped tackling the numerous causes of the discontent (prices, employment, status of Creole language, education and vocational training and governance) and condemning the policies enforced by the government then. He wonders how the new minister is going to solve the problems he once pointed at.

Victorin Lurel; photo taken from his Twitter profile @VictorinLurel

Regarding Lurel's appointment, Bel Balawou publishes no personal comment but reposts a letter [fr] from Patrick Karam, a Guadeloupean-born former junior minister in Sarkozy's government, who unexpectedly expresses his complete support to his former rival, Victorin Lurel.

Le plus compétent et populaire des ultramarins, qui fut de tous les combats en faveur des outre-mer, l’homme qui a tenu bon face au LKP pendant la crise de 2009 et dont le comportement irréprochable et courageux avait été salué par le Président de la République Nicolas Sarkozy [...]

The most able and popular of the Overseas-born [Ed: politicians], who has defended the Overseas regions in all their struggles, who stood in front of the LKP at the time of the 2009 social crisis and whose honest and brave behavior had been ackowledged by President Nicolas Sarkozy [...]

These inconstencies are also pointed at by Martinican blogger at Montray Kréyol, who publishes a letter from Victorin Lurel, in a post entitled “The Contortions of Toto” (Toto being Lurel's nickname in his native Guadeloupe) [fr]. In this letter, Lurel, before being appointed, legitimizes President Hollande's choice to honor French stateman Jules Ferry on his inauguration day. The choice was judged awkward and Lurel's support even moreso, since Ferry was the well-known advocate of the French colonial expansion.

Martinican blogger at Bondamanjak humorously wonders [fr] why no Martinican-born politican was appointed in this new government.

Le hic dans cette histoire c'est que la Martinique, terre d'Aimé Césaire… creuset de la démocratie participative est étrangement absence de cette réunion de compétences.

The problem here is that Martinique, land of Aimé Césaire…the soil of partipatory democracy is surprisingly missing from this combination of skills.

Visit French mainstream online magazine, Le Nouvel Obs [fr], to see the new faces of the French executive.

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