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It never rains but it pours. France has been hit by a series of violent storms in which at least six people have died, among them three first-responders killed when their rescue helicopter crashed near Marseille. Parts of the far south of the country have been inundated for the best part of three weeks, forcing large-scale disruption, including the shutdowns of schools and public transport. Only now is the weather starting to relent.
At the same time, the conceit that France still has a central role to play in sub-Saharan Africa is coming under renewed strain. President Macron led a tribute yesterday in Les Invalides in Paris to 13 French soldiers killed in a collision last week between two military helicopters in Mali, where they were part of Operation Barkhane, the forgotten war against jihadists in an area larger than Europe, stretching from Mauritania to Chad. Describing the dead as “heroes,” Macron was obliged to justify France’s continued military presence in its former West African empire against criticism from the Left that there is no point to foreign wars and no indication, in any case, that they have succeeded in bringing peace to the region.
As if this was not enough, a combination of the trade unions and the gilets-jaunes are set to initiate a series of protests across France on Thursday aimed at forcing Macron to abandon his promise to reform public sector working practises and to revoke plans to streamline the country’s ruinously generous pension provisions.