Paris — Politicians from across the spectrum have denounced the publication of the cartoon depicting a French MP and anti-racism activist as a slave under the title “Obono, the African.”
On Friday, Black MP Danièle Obono posted one of the drawings from French publication Valeurs Actuelles, in which she is portrayed wearing chains around her neck, on Twitter and described it as an “odious” but typical far-right move. Obono, a French-Gabonese MP for the far-left party, “La France Insoumise,” is vocal in her denunciation of systemic and structural racism.
On the same day, French Prime Minister Jean Castex tweeted his support to Obono, saying “this shocking publication calls for an unambiguous condemnation.”
Already condemned in 2015 for inciting hatred against Roma communities, Valeurs Actuelles, which caters to a right-wing and far-right readership, describes itself as anti-conformist and politically incorrect.
Well-established in the French mediasphere, the weekly paper landed interviews with members of the government including President Emmanuel Macron himself in the past, but not without stirring controversy each time.
Macron called Obono on Saturday to inform her of his “clear condemnation of any form of racism,” the Elysee told news agency AFP.
The magazine said the fictitious cartoon was intended to bring to light the responsibility of Africans in the slave trade, “terrible truth that indigenous people don’t want to see and apparently, dear @Deputee_Obono, you don’t want to read.”
To discuss the racist cartoon, a member of the anti-racist organization Black African Defense League went to the publication’s headquarters to meet with its writers and later called for a protest in front of the building. Valeurs Actuelles announced their decision to press charges against the organization for “the illegal intrusion into our premises.”
Over the weekend, condemnation continued, from socialist Premier Secretary Olivier Faure on the one side to the far-right treasurer of Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party, Wallerand de Saint Just, who called the cartoon “a humiliating and hurtful representation of an elected official of the Republic”.
While denying that the cartoon was racist, the magazine eventually issued an apology to MP Obono on Saturday.
Denouncing the cartoon as “an insult to (her) ancestors, her family” and “to the Republic”, Danièle Obono said Saturday evening on local TV channel BFMTV she would “think” about filing a complaint.
On Monday, Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz opened an investigation on the counts of “racist insult”, Heitz announced in a statement.