Con­fu­sion over Macron pledge to rein­tro­duce con­scrip­tion

The Guardian - - WORLD - An­gelique Chrisafis Paris

The French gov­ern­ment is grap­pling with how to hon­our Em­manuel Macron’s con­tro­ver­sial elec­tion prom­ise to rein­tro­duce com­pul­sory mil­i­tary ser­vice for young peo­ple.

France’s pres­i­dent in­sisted this week that his “uni­ver­sal na­tional ser­vice” would in­clude an oblig­a­tory pe­riod of be­tween three and six months for all young men and women, to take part ei­ther in the mil­i­tary or in a form of civic ser­vice.

Macron con­ceded at a meet­ing of po­lit­i­cal jour­nal­ists that the details of the scheme, which could be pi­loted from 2019, had not yet been de­cided. He said there would be a fi­nan­cial cost, adding: “I don’t think it would be pro­hib­i­tive, this is not about recre­at­ing mas­sive bar­racks.”

There has been con­fu­sion over the shape of the con­scrip­tion scheme that would in­volve about 600,000 men and women aged 18–21 each year.

The French armed forces min­is­ter said last week the scheme would “prob­a­bly not be oblig­a­tory”. A par­lia­ment de­fence com­mit­tee re­port on the pro­ject, seen by French me­dia, sug­gested any scheme should be vol­un­tary be­cause it was nei­ther pos­si­ble nor de­sir­able to force peo­ple to take part.

But the gov­ern­ment spokesman Ben­jamin Griveaux in­sisted this week that “it will be uni­ver­sal … and it will be oblig­a­tory.”

France phased out com­pul­sory mil­i­tary ser­vice be­tween 1996 and 2001. Macron, 40, is the first French pres­i­dent not to have been called up to army. A work­ing group to de­fine the na­tional ser­vice will re­port in April.

of bank notes and di­a­monds from a busi­ness­man in ex­change for ac­cess to le­gal doc­u­ments.

Nor can the ANC rely on its ex­tra­or­di­nary his­tory and the rep­u­ta­tions of the giants of his­tory who led the anti-apartheid strug­gle to guar­an­tee po­lit­i­cal power to­day.

A younger gen­er­a­tion of ANC politi­cians is push­ing through, and they can­not counter ac­cu­sa­tions of in­com­pe­tence or wrong­do­ing by ap­peal­ing to the ef­forts made by their fore­bears to build a mul­tira­cial democ­racy against the odds.

There is im­pa­tience and anger. Around 30% of the South African pop­u­la­tion is un­der 15, and for them the racist regime that fell in 1994 is an­cient his­tory, how­ever toxic its legacy re­mains to­day.

The first task for Ramaphosa will be to unite the ANC be­fore the cam­paign for the 2019 elec­tions gets un­der way. The or­gan­i­sa­tion’s po­lit­i­cal dom­i­nance is still not fun­da­men­tally threat­ened by op­po­si­tion par­ties.

But the ANC must limit losses – re­cent mu­nic­i­pal polls saw se­ri­ous set­backs – and avoid be­ing forced into a coali­tion gov­ern­ment. This will not be easy. The dis­af­fected fol­low­ers of Zuma will need to be co-opted, or marginalised, even though many re­main in po­si­tions of power, and ide­o­log­i­cal dis­putes which have split the ANC re­main largely un­re­solved.

An­a­lysts de­scribed the ANC’s choice of leader in De­cem­ber as a turn­ing point for the whole coun­try, not just the party. Now Ramaphosa is in charge of both. Fifty-four mil­lion South Africans – and many others across the con­ti­nent and the world – will be watch­ing his ev­ery pro­nounce­ment to know whether the future will bring new hope for the rain­bow na­tion, or dis­ap­point­ment.


Cyril Ramaphosa, pic­tured last month, is poised to lead South Africa


Main im­age: Zuma ar­rives for his res­ig­na­tion speech in Pre­to­ria; at Buck­ing­ham Palace in 2010; with Nel­son Man­dela in 2010; in­au­gu­rated in 2009

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