30 May 2014

South Africa: France's Front National Against Naming Square After 'Terrorist' Mandela

Local councillors from France's far-right Front National (FN) this week refused to back a call to name a square after Nelson Mandela, objecting to his "terrorist past".

The six Front National members on Toulon city council abstained when mayor Hubert Falco, of the mainstream right-wing UMP, proposed that the esplanade in front of the southern French seaport's new railway station bear the late South African president and anti-apartheid leader's name.

The far-right councillors objected to the city "accepting all Mandela's history, from his terrorist past to his reconciliation policy", contrasting it to the change in a street name chosen by one of their supporters.

In 2000 then-mayor Jean-Marie Le Chevallier, who had been elected with the FN's endorsement, named a crossroads "Général Raoul Salan" after a World War II resistance fighter, known as the "liberator of Toulon".

But Salan was also one of the cofounders of the Organisation de l'Armée Secrète (OAS), which carried on a campaign of bombings and assassinations, including an attempt on the life of president Charles de Gaulle, against Algerian independence.

In 2005, in response to protests by human-rights campaigners, the council voted to change the crossroads' name to "Colonel Raoul Salan", his rank at the time of the liberation of Toulon.

Socialist councillors congratulated the mayor on his initiative, describing Mandela as an "exceptional man".

After Mandela's death last December FN members of the regional council, including former leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, failed to take part in a minute's silence for the South African leader.

They claimed that they were in a meeting and did not hear the bell announcing the tribute.

The party's current leader, Marine Le Pen, who has tried to revamp its image, hailed Mandela's "patriotism" and efforts at "reconciliation" but her rival for the leadership, Bruno Gollnisch, struck a different note, commenting that the "Afrikaner [apartheid] regime was far from the lesser evil".

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