French President François Hollande can’t buy a break. His nation’s economy has stalled, unemployment is rising, his government has been rocked by scandal and his approval ratings have slipped below 30%. Now, somebody has gone and eaten Hollande’s pet camel.
The man is having a seriously bad month.
Hollande was given the animal in February as a gift from the leaders of Mali, after French troopes repelled an al Qaeda-linked jihadist insurgency in the former French colony’s north. But after the unruly young camel greeted its new master with unrelenting, ear-piercing howls during Hollande’s visit to Timbuktu, it was decided the creature would probably prove a bit problematic as an Elysée companion (or mode of Parisian transport). Consequentially, the presidential dromedary was left in the care of a local farm family tasked with insuring its good health and happiness.
But something presumably was lost in the translation: this week France’s Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian reported that the animal was instead slaughtered for a camel tagine, according to the Telegraph.
Tragic as that was on its own, news of Timbuktu Joe’s demise also added to the growing pile of Hollande’s woes. France’s troubles within the euros zone’s enduring debt crisis have grown worse as the economy has slowed to a stop, pushing joblessness up over 10%. That has sent the president’s already sinking approval rating to 27%–a level that could sink further in the wake of his former Budget Minister’s confession he’d repeatedly lied to the public, media, parliament and his president in denying he’d stashed money away in tax-free offshore bank accounts. True, no one is likely to blame Hollande for his camel’s culinary fate, but the improbable development does add to growing public sentiment that the President is caught in one of those dreaded periods where absolutely nothing will go right for him no matter what he does. (Adding insult to injury, New York magazine added the camel’s yowls to the already animal-infested Taylor Swift song “Trouble”.)
But there is some good(ish) news. Officials in Mali have pledged to provide Hollande a replacement camel—and one report quotes Malian authorities describing as “a bigger, better-looking camel” than its digested predecessor. Given the recent misunderstandings, moreover, Hollande’s new pet will be sent to Paris to be fed, groomed, cared for, adored, and otherwise not used as a main course.
Animal lovers will understandably be relieved by that decision. However, given how things are going these days for Hollande, he’ll still be the person blamed if the new arrival eats all the flower buds in the Elysée garden.