French troops are enforcing an uneasy calm in Ivory Coast, where suddenly much of the population turned against them, treating them as hated occupiers instead of welcome peacekeepers.
Welcome to le club.
With U.N. approval, French troops have been policing a cease-fire — in which neither party has kept its side of the bargain — between Ivory Coast's Christian-dominated government in the south and Muslim rebels in the north.
Ivory Coast is a former French colony, the two countries maintain close ties and 14,000 French citizens live there. And keeping the peace is important because unrest in West Africa tends to spread.
As in Iraq, it seems no good deed goes unpunished. Last Saturday, the Ivorian air force bombed a French military camp, killing nine soldiers and an American aid worker. In retaliation, French planes destroyed the Ivory Coast air force's modest collection of jets and helicopters on the ground and French troops seized the two major airports.
What followed was five days of looting and rioting and the destruction of French businesses. France is now evacuating its nationals and other Europeans.
France is now seeking additional peacekeepers from other countries to augment its own numbers and to lower the French profile. And it is trying to convince a reluctant United Nations to impose an arms embargo and sanctions on the Gbagbo government.
What it is getting is an appeal by U.N. Secretary- General Kofi Annan for all parties to end the violence.
The French wouldn't welcome the comparison, but somehow doesn't all of this sound terribly familiar?