Africa

The Sarkozy technique

0 26

Kaye Whiteman

04 March 2010

 


 

 

africaI make no apology for returning again to the subject of France in Africa. Last week, I brought it in to my reminiscences about coups in Niger Republic, if only to reflect on changes since the bad old days of unmitigated skulduggery.

But we have recently had some serious pieces of news to assist students of La Françafrique in building a picture of France’s sometimes contradictory African policy in the Sarkozy era. The key emblematic moment, which many newspapers featured, came from the visit of President Nicolas Sarkozy of France to Rwanda. Pictures of the visit showed the diminutive ‘Sarko’ next to lanky President Paul Kagamé, but it was the symbolism of the occasion, not the photograph which impressed.

For this was intended to be the reconciliation of the two countries after 16 years of hostilities, triggered by France’s still controversial role in the genocide of 1994 still reverberates down the years. Thus, although Sarkozy did not actually apologise for the French role in the genocide, he admitted that the French had made “grave errors of appreciation,” that there had been a certain “blindness” about the support being given to the government that had ended up committing the genocide; and that the French military intervention, called Opération Turquoise had been too late and “without doubt too little.”

Although this was still not a total admission of wrong-doing, it still went a lot further than in Lisbon in 2007 (at the Africa-Europe Summit), when he had taken shelter behind the “weaknesses and errors” of the international community, France included.

French reporters noted that when he visited the genocide memorial, he passed rapidly in front of a photo of French troops alongside machete-wielding Hutu militia. For, to spell out the “grave errors,” it was not just the training given to the militia (Interhamwe) that caused criticism, but the fact that Opération Turquoise was not only officially peace-keeping, but gave cover to the retreating criminals of the same Interhamwe, who since they fled to the Congo have been a running sore. Exactly why it was necessary to make these concessions to Rwanda in order to resume relations, broken by Rwanda since the past three years, is a mystery. Can it really be that France is so keen not to let Rwanda out of the francophone sphere? One notes wonderingly that last November Rwanda entered the Commonwealth and next week he will be in London raising the flag of Rwanda at the organisation’s headquarters and guest of honour there at the Commonwealth Day reception.
sarkozy

But does this mean that at heart France’s policies in Africa remain unchanged, with cosmetic variations dictated by circumstances? France’s still opaque implication in the genocide, was a key reason for the policy change from regular unilateral interventionism, to seeking cover from either the UN (in the case of Côte D’Ivoire) or the EU (in Congo, Chad and Central African Republic).

What has been sustained has been the French network of defence agreements and bases unique among any external powers in Africa. In this, it parallels the CFA franc, which linked to the Euro is still the sinews of France’s special relationship. President Sarkozy, in Cape Town in 2008, promised a new deal on defence that was supposed to break with the past, and has gone ahead to promote a transparent defence relationship with new accords currently being signed with several countries.

If there are now no secret clauses relating to propping up regimes with security problems, the bases are to be maintained, if reduced. It remains to be seen how this will work out in practice. The development must be seen in the context of the increased US presence in Africa (reluctance to accommodate Africom notwithstanding).

This presence can be seen notably in Djibouti, and in the Sahel, and is an indication of the new pressures on African countries in view of the global prosecution of the ‘war on terror,’ which seems to have survived in the Obama era. Interestingly, French policy evolution has been the decision to keep the base in Gabon originally earmarked for closure, while the base in Senegal is to be reduced to a ‘platform.’

Gabon has always been a key country of La Françafrique, and to see Sarkozy making a fuss of it causes one to question how much has changed. The dynastic succession of Ali Bongo to the Gabonese presidency after the death of his father last year has scotched the chances of any real change, despite initial reformist measures. It is thus hard not to come to the conclusion that each French president since Charles de Gaulle has found the African clothes the General had designed for himself, too irresistible not to wear, however much there may have been the urge to be an agent of change, a moderniser.

Sarkozy, however nimble an operator he may be, is still fundamentally operating the Gaullist system in Africa that has, with modification and reforms, operated for the past 50 years.

 

www.businessdayonline.com

About the author / 

CESRAN Int.

Leave a reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

CESRAN Blog

  • 24th Issue is Online Now!

    Vol. VI | No. III – July-August-September 2020 To Download the Magazine Click Here… CONTENTS 05-14….. World News by Ebru Birinci 17-24….. Preparedness for an Uncertain Future “The Only Thing We Have to Fear is Fear Itself” by Professor Mark Meirowitz 25-39….. EU LAW vs UK LAW The Primacy of EU Law over National Law:…

  • IEPAS2020 is Going Virtual!

    Dear Friends and Colleagues, IEPAS2020 is Going Virtual! Due to the COVID19 pandemic, we are holding our entire conference virtually by streaming all of the live sessions. You may participate in all of our virtual networking events. In case of missing a session, you may get full access to the replays of every session since all…

  • The 13th issue of JCTS (Journal of Conflict Transformation & Security) is out now…

    The 13th issue of JCTS (Journal of Conflict Transformation & Security) is out now… Vol. 8 | No. 1 | 2020 Click here to Download the Entire Issue   TABLE OF CONTENTS Editor’s Note By David Curran Introduction By Nergis Canefe Research Articles Statelessness as a Permanent State: Challenges to the Human Security Paradigm By…

  • The 19th Issue of The Rest: Journal of Politics and Development is Out Now!

    The 19th issue of the rest: journal of politics and development is out now. Download the issue here… TABLE OF CONTENTS Research Articles Turkish AK Parti’s Posture towards the 2003 War in Iraq: The Impact of Religion amid Security Concerns By Alberto Gasparetto Nigeria and the Great Powers: The Impacts of the Boko Haram Terrorism on…

  • CESRAN International Named again amongst the Top Think Tanks in the World

    CESRAN International is pleased to announce that it has been named again amongst the world’s best think tanks. The 2019 Global Go To Think Tank Index ranked CESRAN International 141st among the World’s “Top Think Tanks in Western Europe” 75th among the World’s “Top Environment Policy Think Tanks” 153rd among the World’s “Top Foreign Policy…

  • THE 18TH ISSUE OF THE REST: JOURNAL OF POLITICS AND DEVELOPMENT IS OUT NOW.

    The 18th issue of the rest: journal of politics and development is out now. Download the issue here… TABLE OF CONTENTS Research Articles The Foreign Policy Decision Making Approaches and Their Applications Case Study: Bush, Obama and Trump’s Decision Making towards Afghanistan and the Region By Sharifullah Dorani Evaluating the Explanatory Power of Social Identity Theory,…

Newsletter