On March 2, nationalist activist Yvan Colonna was attacked by a fellow prisoner imprisoned for terrorism. Since then, Corsica has faced violent clashes in several major cities.
Sentenced to life for the assassination of the prefect Claude Érignac, Yvan Colonna was detained in the prison of Arles (Bouches-du-Rhône).
Since his incarceration, he has been asked to be placed in a Corsican penitentiary. An application that has always been denied to him because of his status as a specially reported inmate (DPS registry) and the specific risks involved in the incarceration on the island of this inmate convicted of “murder in connection with a terrorist enterprise.”
Since his aggression which reignited the resentment of the Corsican separatists, the Island of beauty is prey to great violence from nationalist militants who accuse the French State of not having been able to protect the prisoner.
Tensions that benefit nationalists
Demonstrations have been taking place day and night in Corsica for two weeks. If they take place without too many clashes during the day, the tensions are however more palpable since the high school students joined the processions of the demonstrators to denounce the responsibility of the French State in the attempted assassination of Yvan Colonna.
On March 8, the high school students held a press briefing in front of the Lætitia-Bonaparte high school to make their demands known:
“After the mobilization initiated last week by the entire nationalist family, the student unions and the entire Corsican people, we could not, we Corsican high schools, not bring our fraternal support to Yvan Colonna, imprisoned political prisoner since 2003, and to his family,” said one of the six high school students who spoke.
“The responsibility of the state is total for having left him alone with a radicalized person. Supervisors did not watch the cameras throughout his assassination attempt. In addition, the State has made no communication to explain certain facts and is sending hundreds of soldiers to repress the Corsicans with weapons of war used in Corte, in particular sound bombs which have already killed people in Notre-Dame- des-Landes” denounced one of the spokespersons for the high school students, calling for the resignation of the Minister of Justice Éric Dupont-Moretti, former lawyer for Yvan Colonna.
According to the rectorate, 23 of the 47 high schools and colleges are blocked and the branch of the “Education” union of the Corsican workers’ union has called for a strike until March 31.
After dark, the clashes became more violent between the police and the demonstrators. Second homes and public buildings are set on fire by demonstrators who no longer hesitate to throw projectiles and Molotov cocktails at the police.
The French state is about to give in to the separatists in order to ease tensions.
Faced with this pre-insurgency situation, Gilles Simeoni, president of the Corsican executive council, far from calling for appeasement, on the contrary encouraged mobilization.
The mobilization of the people #Corsica must continue. The Executive Council nevertheless calls on young Corsican people not to take any risks and not to endanger their physical integrity.
He asks the security forces to cease the use of dangerous means without delay. pic.twitter.com/TKJVEX5chL
— Gilles Simeoni (@Gilles_Simeoni) March 8, 2022
On March 11, in an interview with Le Figaro, Gilles Simeoni did not hesitate to set his conditions.
“Appeasement can only come from strong, public and rapid political gestures. A political process must be opened at the highest level of the State”, he further declared.
Faced with these demands, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin announced on Monday (March 13th) that he would travel to Corsica to “open” a “discussion cycle” with “all elected officials and the island’s living forces.” ».
On March 15, in an exclusive interview given to Corse Matin, the Beauvau tenant declared: “We are ready to go as far as autonomy”, without specifying all that this term autonomy could cover. A process would be “logically initiated during Emmanuel Macron’s second term”, provided that the president is re-elected.
See also: Corsica: Darmanin “ready to go as far as autonomy” of the island
Announcements that did not satisfy everyone since the former president of the assembly of Corsica Jean-Guy Talamoni has already warned that “Darmanin must not come up with the idea of calming Corsicans during the presidential election” .
The Minister of the Interior must also meet the police who, despite their right of reserve, did not hesitate to make known their disagreement with the State. Not hesitating to speak of a “retreat”, the police denounced the ultimatum of the Corsican Workers’ Union, which on March 4th prevented a boat loaded with equipment intended for the police from docking in Ajaccio.
A government under fire from critics
The promises of the Minister of the Interior have provoked strong reactions within the political class, in particular from the candidates for the presidential election. From Valérie Pécresse to Yannick Jadot via Marine Le Pen, all have criticized the government and the president for his management of the Corsican file.
Interviewed by Léa Salamé on France Inter, Valérie Pécresse denounces a president “under pressure” and believes that “order must be restored in Corsica before negotiations can begin”. In favor of autonomy, however, the LR candidate warned against the “dismantling of the Republic” calling for “a donor-donor from Corsica, autonomy against results”, especially in terms of creation of jobs.
For his part, Yannick Jadot spoke out for “full autonomy” for the Island of Beauty, regretting that we have to wait for a tragedy to find solutions.
Opposed to the autonomy of Corsica, Marine Le Pen strongly criticized the initiatives of the executive: “Can there be a more catastrophic message from the assassination of a prefect to the promise of autonomy?” I refuse to let Emmanuel Macron’s cynical clientelism break the integrity of French territory: Corsica must remain French ”.
Going from the assassination of a prefect to the promise of autonomy, can there be a more catastrophic message?
I refuse that Emmanuel Macron’s cynical clientelism breaks the integrity of French territory: Corsica must remain French. https://t.co/PMQnWY8OsL pic.twitter.com/aIOC4tD9Gv
– Marine Le Pen (@MLP_officiel) March 16, 2022
In an interview given to Le Monde in 2018, Jean-Pierre Chevènement had no hesitation in denouncing “four decades of retreat from the right and the left” while successive governments had failed to counter the ever-increasing demands of the Corsican separatists, yielding to all the “secessionist tendencies” of nationalist minorities.
In line with its predecessors, far from denouncing the rise of the separatist movement, the French government seems once again to give in to the injunctions of the separatists. If the voice towards autonomy were engaged, it is the foundations of the republican order, as they have been built for more than two centuries, which could be shaken.
Far from worrying about this commitment to the autonomy of Corsica, Michel Maffesoli, in a column published in Le Figaro, sees the nocturnal demonstrations on the Isle of Beauty the sign of a revolt “against the verticality of a overpowering power”. Hardly surprised by these uprisings which come immediately after “a health crisis prohibiting any gathering” in a region where “family solidarity” is very important, the sociologist notes the end “of a central State which imposes its standard on all citizens” .
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“An era is ending, another is in the making” Michel Maffesoli
In Corsica, Darmanin is trying to appease with the map of autonomy