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The imperial legacy of international peacebuilding: the case of Francophone Africa

  • BRUNO CHARBONNEAU

Abstract

Comparisons of peacebuilding with historic practices of imperialism are common, but these comparisons have sustained a hegemonic antagonism between humanitarian and imperialist interpretations of international peace intervention. This article argues that this common framing externalises the problem of intervention, romanticises local resistance, and forecloses to investigation the articulation between militarised peace practices and transnational capitalist relations. To do so, the article analyses the case of Francophone Africa, thus providing a context that has been left unexplored in peacebuilding debates. By bringing back in the historicity of particular Franco-African imperial experiences into peacebuilding research, the article reveals the militarisation of politics, transnational elite networks, and the dominant intellectual predispositions that work to reproduce the legitimacy of hegemonic practices of ‘peace’ interventionism. In the last section, the article analyses the debates over the UN-French 2011 intervention in Côte d'Ivoire to reveal the connections between the ethics of humanitarian interventions and the political economy of imperialism. The article concludes that the imperial legacy of peacebuilding is found in old capabilities, new organising logics, and specific practices and power relations and that to focus on the humanitarian-imperialist antagonism caricatures the relationships between ‘local’ and ‘international’ actors.

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1 While Libya cannot be said to be part of Francophone Africa, there is a long and convoluted history of French-Libyan relations and involvement in African conflicts, notably in Chad in the 1980s. On the French role in the 2011 Libyan war, see Notin, Jean-Christophe, La vérité sur notre guerre en Libye (Paris: Fayard, 2012). On the French role in the Chad-Sudan-Darfur conflict system during the European Union 2008–9 military deployment, see Charbonneau, Bruno, ‘France’, in Black, David and Williams, Paul (eds), The International Politics of Mass Atrocities: The Case of Darfur (London: Routledge, 2010), pp. 213–31.

2 On the French military intervention in Mali, see Charbonneau, Bruno and Sears, Jonathan, ‘Defending Neoliberal Mali: French Military Intervention and the Management of Contested Political Narratives’ in Kühn, Florian and Turner, Mandy (eds), Where Has All the Peace Gone? The Politics of International Intervention (London: Routledge, forthcoming).

3 French President François Hollande refused to rescue the President of the Central African Republic François Bozizé when the rebels reached Bangui in December 2012. Yet, the French military has kept about 200 soldiers in the country since 2003. After the coup d'état of 24 March 2013, the force was strengthened to 550 troops to protect French citizens and interests. Operation Boali officially supports the Mission for the consolidation of peace in Central African Republic (MICOPAX) that is since 12 July 2008 under the responsibility of the Economic Community of Central African States.

4 Charbonneau, Bruno and Chafer, Tony (eds), Peace Operations in the Francophone World: Global Governance Meets Post-Colonialism (London: Routledge, 2014).

5 Granvaud, Raphaël, Que fait l'armée française en Afrique? (Marseille: Agone, 2009).

6 Tshimanga, Charles, Gondola, Didier, and Bloom, Peter (eds), Frenchness and the African Diaspora: Identity and Uprising in Contemporary France (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009).

7 Jean-François Bayart and Romain Bertrand, ‘De quel “leg colonial” parle-t-on?’, Esprit (December 2006), pp. 134–60.

8 Kühn, Florian, ‘The Peace Prefix: Ambiguities of the Word Peace’, International Peacekeeping, 19:4 (2012), pp. 396409; Pugh, Michael, ‘Reflections on Aggressive Peace’, International Peacekeeping, 19:4 (2012), pp. 410–25.

9 Doyle, Michael, ‘The John W. Holmes Lecture: Building Peace’, Global Governance, 13:1 (2007), p. 9.

10 For an overview of these critical differences, see Barnett, Michael, Kim, Hunjoon, O'Donnell, Madalene, and Sitea, Laura, ‘Peacebuilding: What Is in a Name?’, Global Governance, 13:1 (2007), pp. 3558.

11 Barnett et al., ‘Peacebuilding’, p. 44.

12 For instance, see Newman, Edward, ‘The Violence of Statebuilding in Historical Perspective: Implications for Peacebuilding’, Peacebuilding, 1:1 (2013), pp. 141–57.

13 Cooper, Neil, ‘Review Article: On the Crisis of the Liberal Peace’, Conflict, Security and Development, 7:4 (2007), pp. 605–16.

14 Richmond, Oliver P., ‘Introduction’, in Richmond, Oliver P. (ed.), Palgrave Advances in Peacebuilding: Critical Developments and Approaches (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), p. 2.

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19 Ottaway, Marina and Lacina, Bethany, ‘International Interventions and Imperialism: Lessons from the 1990s’, SAIS Review, 23:2 (2003), pp. 7192; Marten, Kimberly Zisk, Enforcing the Peace: Learning from the Imperial Past (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004).

20 Bellamy, Alex and Williams, Paul, ‘Introduction: Thinking Anew about Peace Operations’, International Peacekeeping, 11:1 (2004), p. 12.

21 Doyle, Michael and Sambanis, Nicholas, Making War and Building Peace: United Nations Peace Operations (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006), p. 318.

22 Cunliffe, ‘Still the Spectre at the Feast’.

23 Duffield, Mark, Development, Security and Unending War: Governing the World of Peoples (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2007).

24 Heathershaw, John, ‘Unpacking the Liberal Peace: The Dividing and Merging of Peacebuilding Discourses’, Millennium: Journal of International Studies, 36:3 (2008), pp. 597621.

25 Stark, Lindsay, ‘Cleansing the Wounds of War: An Examination of Traditional Healing, Psychosocial Health and Reintegration in Sierra Leone’, Intervention, 4:3 (2006), pp. 206–18.

26 Wessells, Michael and Monteiro, Carlinda, ‘Psychological Intervention and Post-war Reconstruction in Angola’, in Christie, D. and Wagner, R.V. (eds), Peace, Conflict and Violence: Peace Psychology for the 21st Century (New York: Prentice Hall, 2001), pp. 262–75.

27 Summerfield, Derek, ‘The Effects of War: Moral Knowledge, Revenge, Reconciliation and Recovery’, British Medical Journal, 325:7372 (2002), pp. 1105–7; Pupavac, Vanessa, ‘International Therapeutic Peace and Justice in Bosnia’, Social and Legal Studies, 13:3 (2004), pp. 377401.

28 Lefranc, Sandrine, ‘A Critique of “Bottom-up” Peacebuilding’, in Charbonneau, Bruno and Parent, Geneviève (eds), Peacebuilding, Memory and Reconciliation: Bridging Top-down and Bottom-up Approaches (London: Routledge, 2012), pp. 3452.

29 Parent, Geneviève, ‘Peacebuilding, Healing, Reconciliation: An Analysis of Unseen Connections for Peace’, International Peacekeeping, 18:4 (2011), pp. 375–94.

30 Charbonneau, Bruno and Parent, Geneviève (eds), Peacebuilding, Healing, Reconciliation: Bridging Top-down and Bottom-up Approaches (London: Routledge, 2012).

31 Ginty, Roger Mac and Williams, Andrew, Conflict and Development (New York: Routledge, 2009), p. 51.

32 Pugh, Michael, Cooper, Neil, and Turner, Mandy (eds), Whose Peace? Critical Perspectives on the Political Economy of Peacebuilding (New York: Palgrave, 2008).

33 Cooper, Neil, Turner, Mandy, and Pugh, Michael, ‘The End of History and the Last Liberal Peacebuilder: a Reply to Roland Paris’, Review of International Studies, 37:4 (2011), p. 2000.

34 Richmond, Oliver, ‘A Pedagogy of Peacebuilding: Infrapolitics, Resistance, and Liberation’, International Political Sociology, 6:2 (2012), pp. 115–31.

35 Richmond, Oliver, A Post-liberal Peace (London/New York: Routledge, 2011); Ginty, Roger Mac, International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance: Hybrid Forms of Peace (New York: Palgrave, 2011).

36 Lidén, Kristoffer, Ginty, Roger Mac, and Richmond, Oliver, ‘Introduction: Beyond Northern Epistemologies of Peace: Peacebuilding Reconstructed?’, International Peacekeeping, 16:5 (2009), p. 593.

37 Mitchell, Audra, ‘Quality/control: International Peace Interventions and the “Everyday”’, Review of International Studies, 37:4 (2011), pp. 1623–45.

38 Chandler, David, ‘Critiquing Liberal Cosmopolitanism? The Limits of the Biopolitical Approach’, International Political Sociology, 3:1 (2009), pp. 5370.

39 Chandler, David, ‘The Uncritical Critique of the Liberal Peace’, Review of International Studies, 36:S1 (2010), pp. 137–55.

40 Chandler, David, International Statebuilding: The Rise of Post-Liberal Governance (New York: Routledge, 2010), p. 40.

41 Walker, R.B.J., After the Globe, Before the World (New York: Routledge, 2010).

42 Colás, Alejandro, Empire (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2007), p. 21.

43 Walker, R.B.J., ‘Lines of Insecurity: International, Imperial, Exceptional’, Security Dialogue, 37:1 (2006), p. 72.

44 Walker, R.B.J., Inside/Outside: International Relations as Political Theory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993).

45 Barkawi, Tarak, ‘Empire and Order in International Relations and Security Studies’, in Denemark, Robert (ed.), The International Studies Encylopedia, Vol. III (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010), pp. 1360–79.

46 Walker, After the Globe, Before the World.

47 Saskia Sassen interviewed in Kenway, Jane and Fahey, Johannah (eds), Globalizing the Research Imagination (New York: Routledge, 2009), p. 125.

48 On this conceptual necessity, Weber, Cynthia, ‘Reconsidering Statehood: Examining the Sovereignty/intervention Boundary’, Review of International Studies, 18:3 (1992), pp. 207–12.

49 Chafer, Tony, The End of Empire in French West Africa: France's Successful Decolonization? (Oxford: Berg, 2002).

50 See the chapters in Chafer, Tony and Keese, Alex (eds), Francophone Africa at Fifty (Manchester University Press, 2013).

51 Richmond, Oliver, Peace in International Relations (London/New York: Routledge, 2008).

52 Thomas, Martin, ‘Introduction: Mapping Violence Onto French Colonial Minds’, in Thomas, Martin (ed.), The French Colonial Mind, Volume 2 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2011), pp. xiliii.

53 Cooper, Frederick, Colonialism in Question: Theory, Knowledge, History (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005).

54 Wilder, Gary, The French Imperial Nation-State: Negritude and Colonial Humanitarianism between the Two World Wars (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), pp. 21–2.

55 Stoler, Ann Laura and Cooper, Frederick, ‘Between Metropole and Colony: Rethinking a Research Agenda’, in Cooper, Frederick and Stoler, Ann Laura (eds), Tensions of Empire: Colonial Cultures in a Bourgeois World (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997), pp. 137.

56 Clayton, Anthony, France, Soldiers and Africa (London: Brassey's Defence Publishers, 1988), p. 19.

57 Echenberg, Myron, Les Tirailleurs sénégalais en Afrique occidentale française (1857–1960) (Paris: Karthala, 2009).

58 Clayton, France, Soldiers and Africa, p. 4.

59 Joly, Vincent, Guerres d'Afrique: 130 ans de guerres coloniales. L'expérience française (Rennes: Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2009), p. 8.

60 While I have limited myself to military practices, the history of imperial violence should include colonial policing practices of all corps habillés (state security forces, as commonly called in Francophone Africa). See Bat, Jean-Pierre and Courtin, Nicolas (eds), Maintenir l'ordre colonial: Afrique et Madagascar, XIXe–XXe siècles (Rennes: Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2012).

61 Bancel, Nicolas, Blanchard, Pascal, and Vergès, Françoise, La République coloniale: essai sur une utopie (Paris: Albin Michel, 2003).

62 Thomas, ‘Introduction: Mapping Violence’, p. xxvii.

63 Chafer, Tony, ‘French African Policy in Historical Perspective’, Journal of Contemporary African Studies, 19:2 (2001), p. 167.

64 Bagayoko-Penone, Niagalé, Afrique: les stratégies française et américaine (Paris: L'Harmattan, 2003), pp. 164–72.

65 Camille Évrard, La transmission du pouvoir militaire en Mauritanie 1955–1965. Mémoire de Master 2 Recherches en Histoire sous la direction du Professeur Pierre Boilley, Université Paris 1 (2008).

66 Charbonneau, Bruno, France and the New Imperialism: Security Policy in Sub-Saharan Africa (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008).

67 Charbonneau, France and the New Imperialism, pp. 68–72.

68 In Benot, Yves, Massacres coloniaux 1944–1950: la IVe République et la mise au pas des colonies françaises (Paris: La Découverte, 1994), p. 33.

69 This is to be distinguished from the use of ‘peace’ by Cold War anti-war/peace movements.

70 Luckham, Robin, ‘Le militarisme français en Afrique’, Politique Africaine, 6 (June 1982), pp. 4571.

71 Charbonneau, France and the New Imperialism.

72 Charbonneau, Bruno, ‘Les effets du prisme de l'Atlantique sur les relations de sécurité Nord-Sud: Le cas de l'Afrique francophone’, in Brunelle, Dorval (ed.), Repenser l'Atlantique (Brussels: Bruylant, 2012), pp. 395418.

73 Bayart, Jean-François, The State in Africa: the Politics of the Belly (2nd edn, Malden: Polity Press, 2009).

74 A good example is the French military involvement in the Libyan-Chadian-Sudanese wars of the 1970s and 1980s, where African elites had, arguably, more influence on French policy than the French government had on the conflict. See Burr, J. Millard and Collins, Robert, Africa's Thirty Years War: Chad, Libya, and the Sudan, 1963–1993 (Boulder: Westview Press, 1999).

75 Kroslak, Daniela, The Role of France in the Rwandan Genocide (London: Hurst, 2007).

76 Charbonneau, France and the New Imperialism, pp. 121–48. See also de Saint-Exupéry, Patrick, L'inavouable: la France au Rwanda (Paris: Les Arènes, 2004).

77 Gounin, Yves, La France en Afrique: Le combat des Anciens et des Modernes (De Boeck, 2009).

78 Charbonneau, Bruno, ‘What Is So Special about the European Union? EU-UN Cooperation in Crisis Management in Africa’, International Peacekeeping, 16:4 (2009), pp. 546–61.

79 Assemblée nationale (France), Rapport d'information sur la politique de la France en Afrique (Paris: Commission des Affaires étrangères, 13e législature, no. 1332, 2008), p. 68. See also France-Sénat, , Rapport d'information sur la gestion des crises en Afrique subsaharienne (Paris: Commission des Affaires étrangères, de la défense et des forces armées, no. 450, 2006), pp. 34, 39.

80 France, , Défense et Sécurité nationale – Le Livre blanc (Paris: Odile Jacob/La Documentation française, 2008), p. 154.

81 Charbonneau, France and the New Imperialism, pp. 73–92.

82 France, Défense et Sécurité nationale, p. 23.

83 Ibid., p. 44.

84 Ibid., p. 154.

85 Cited in ‘Ouattara solennellement investi président de la Côte d'Ivoire’, Le Monde (21 May 2011), author's translation.

86 Roland Marchal, ‘Briefing: Military (Mis)Adventures in Mali’, African Affairs, advance access published 30 May 2013.

87 For an analysis of the peace operations in Côte d'Ivoire, including the 2010–11 events, see Charbonneau, Bruno, ‘War and Peace in Côte d'Ivoire: Violence, Agency and the Local/International Line’, International Peacekeeping, 19:4 (2012), pp. 508–24; Bellamy, Alex and Williams, Paul, ‘The New Politics of Protection? Côte d'Ivoire, Libya and the Responsibility to Protect’, International Affairs, 87:4 (2011), pp. 825–50.

88 Kelman, Gaston, ‘Côte d'Ivoire: le réveil de l'intellectuel africain est en jeu’, Jeune Afrique 2609 (9–15 January 2011).

89 For an overview of the debates between African intellectuals, see Christophe Champin, ‘Côte d'Ivoire: La crise ivoirienne divise les intellectuels’, Rfi (18 January 2011).

90 ‘Côte d'Ivoire: un appel d'intellectuels contre les va-t-en guerre?’, Rue89, available at: {www.rue89.com/node/182705} accessed December 2010. See also Albert Bourgi, ‘Insupportable néocolonialisme français’, Le Monde (15 April 2011).

91 Tierno Monénembo, ‘L'ONU recolonise l'Afrique’, Le Monde (3 January 2011).

92 Calixte Beyala ‘Non, Gbagbo n'est pas seul!’, Jeune Afrique (4 January 2011).

93 Collectif, ‘Laurent Gbagbo, chef ethnocentriste’, Le Monde (19 January 2011).

94 Venance Konan, ‘Reconnaissons que l'Elysée rompt avec la Françafrique?’, Le Monde (15 April 2011). See the French perspective of Yves Gounin, ‘On est loin de l'interventionnisme à la George W. Bush’, Le Monde (15 April 2011).

95 Mbeki, Thabo, ‘What the World Got Wrong in Côte d'Ivoire’, Foreign Policy (Washington, DC, 29 April 2011); and the response from the Chief of Staff of the UN Secretary-general, Nambiar, Vijay, ‘Dear President Mbeki: The United Nations Helped Save the Ivory Coast’, Foreign Policy (Washington, DC, 17 August 2011).

96 In the public arguments, there are potentially interesting differences from the scholarly ‘international/local’ and ‘imperial/humanitarian’ dichotomies. For instance, the former seem to emphasise the deficiencies in specific actors, thus potentially exceeding the ‘international/local’ binary and a principled stance for one or the other. I thank the anonymous reviewer who pointed this out to me.

97 Koné, Amadou, Houphouët-Boigny et la crise ivoirienne (Paris: Karthala, 2003).

98 Chauveau, Jean-Pierre and Dozon, Jean-Pierre, ‘Ethnies et État en Côte d'Ivoire’, Revue française de science politique, 38:5 (1988), p. 745.

99 Amin, Samir, Le développement du capitalisme en Côte d'Ivoire (2nd edn, Paris: Minuit, 1973).

100 Schwab, Peter, Designing West Africa: Prelude to 21st-century Calamity (New York: Palgrave, 2004), p. 54.

101 Akindès, Francis, ‘Racines des crises socio-politiques en Côte d'Ivoire et sens de l'histoire’, in Ouédraogo, J.-B. and Sall, E. (eds), Frontières de la citoyenneté et violence politique en Côte d'Ivoire (Dakar: CODESRIA, 2008), pp. 2561.

102 Campbell, Bonnie, ‘Political Dimensions of the Adjustment Experience of Côte d'Ivoire’, in MacDonald, Eleanor (ed.), Critical Political Studies (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2002).

103 Bouquet, Christian, Géopolitique de la Côte d'Ivoire (Paris: Armand Colin, 2005).

104 The presence of Martin Bouygues and Vincent Bolloré at Ouattara's 21 May 2011 presidential investiture was symbolically powerful and suggestive of the shared French-Ivoirian economic interests. See ‘Côte d'Ivoire: dans les coulisses de l'investiture d'Alassane Ouattara’, Jeune Afrique (1 June 2011).

105 Philippe Bernard, ‘Gbagbo: retour sur investissement’, Le Monde (16 February 2011).

106 ‘Cote d'Ivoire Minister of Economy and Finance to Receive “Finance Minister of the Year, Africa” From the Banker Magazine’, Marketwire (11 February 2010).

107 Pascal Airault, ‘Côte d'Ivoire: “Nous sommes les premiers responsables”, admet Mamadou Koulibaly’, Jeune Afrique (14 June 2011).

108 Abrahamsen, Rita, Disciplining Democracy: Development Discourse and Good Governance in Africa (London: Zed Books, 2000).

109 In the first round of the presidential election, Gbagbo got 38.3 per cent of the vote and 45.9 per cent in the second round. For an analysis of the election, Bassett, Thomas, ‘Winning Coalition, Sore Loser: Côte d'Ivoire's 2010 Presidential Elections’, African Affairs, 110:440 (2011), pp. 469–79.

110 McGovern, Mike, Making War in Côte d'Ivoire (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011), pp. 103–36. During my fieldwork in Côte d'Ivoire in November and December 2012, this claim was reaffirmed by FPI members and Gbagbo supporters during informal conversations and formal interviews.

111 Straus, Scott, ‘“It's Sheer Horror Here”: Patterns of Violence during the First Four Months of Côte d'Ivoire's Post-electoral Crisis’, African Affairs, 110:440 (2011), pp. 481–9.

112 Simonen, Katariina, ‘Qui s'excuse s'accuse … An Analysis of French Justifications for Intervening in Côte d'Ivoire’, International Peacekeeping, 19:3 (2012), pp. 363–76.

113 Vines, Alex, ‘Côte d'Ivoire: Power Gridlock’, The World Today, 67:3 (2011), p. 24.

114 For a detailed analysis, see Charbonneau, ‘War and Peace in Côte d'Ivoire’.

115 Charbonneau, Bruno, ‘Dreams of Empire: France, Europe, and the New Interventionism in Africa’, Modern & Contemporary France, 16:3 (2008), pp. 279–95.

116 Piccolino, Giulia, ‘David against Goliath in Côte d'Ivoire? Laurent Gbagbo's War against Global Governance’, African Affairs, 111:442 (2011), pp. 123.

117 Darracq, Vincent, ‘Jeux de puissance en Afrique: Le Nigeria et l'Afrique du Sud face à la crise ivoirienne’, Politique étrangère, 2:summer (2011), pp. 361–74.

118 The difficult relationship between Chirac and Mbeki over Côte d'Ivoire was well covered by the press, notably Chirac's statement that Mbeki should ‘immerse himself in West Africa … in order to understand the psychology and soul of West Africa because, in times of crisis, one must know the psychology and soul of the people’. ‘Chirac en panne d'idée’, Jeune Afrique (6 February 2005).

119 International Crisis Group, Côte d'Ivoire: faut-il croire à l'accord de Ouagadougou? (Dakar/Brussels: Africa Report 127, 2007).

120 ‘UN chief warns of “real risk” of Ivory Coast civil war’, BBC News {www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-12056444} accessed 23 December 2010.

121 Walker, After the Globe, Before the World, p. 230.

122 Berry, Sarah, ‘Property, Authority and Citizenship: Land Claims, Politics and the Dynamics of Social Division in West Africa’, Development and Change, 40:1 (2009), pp. 2345; Conte, Bernard, ‘La responsabilité du FMI et de la Banque mondiale dans le conflit en Côte d'Ivoire’, Études internationales, 36:2 (2005), pp. 219–28.

123 ‘Côte d'Ivoire: la France annonce une aide “exceptionnelle” de 400 millions d'euros’, Le Monde (12 April 2011); John Lichfield, ‘A Success for France's army, but a failure of its diplomacy’, The Independent (12 April 2011); Baudelaire Mieu, ‘Côte d'Ivoire: forcing des patrons français’, Jeune Afrique (18 July 2011); Kim Willsher, ‘Sarkozy's micro-managed intervention in Ivory Coast could win votes’, The Guardian (11 April 2011).

124 Amnesty International, Côte d'Ivoire: la loi des vainqueurs (London: Amnesty International Publications, 2013).

125 Because of the lack of space, I cannot elaborate on the Ivoirian peacebuilding process since 2011. See Charbonneau, Bruno, ‘Côte d'Ivoire: les possibilités et limites d'une réconciliation’, Afrique Contemporaine, 245:1 (2013), pp. 111–29.

126 Giulia Piccolino, ‘David against Goliath in Côte d'Ivoire?’

127 Charbonneau, ‘Côte d'Ivoire: les possibilités et limites d'une réconciliation’.

* I thank Tony Chafer, William Crumplin, Geneviève Parent, Michael Pugh and the three anonymous reviewers of the Review of International Studies for their comments, support, and encouragement in writing and improving this article, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for its financial support.

The imperial legacy of international peacebuilding: the case of Francophone Africa

  • BRUNO CHARBONNEAU

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