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Cablegate: French President Sarkozy Visits Dakar, Lectures African

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PP RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHDK #1655/01 2211720
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 091720Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY DAKAR
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8967
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 DAKAR 001655

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DEPT FOR AF/W, AF/RSA, DRL AND INR/AA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM ECON KISL SG
SUBJECT: FRENCH PRESIDENT SARKOZY VISITS DAKAR, LECTURES AFRICAN
YOUTH


SUMMARY
-------
1. (SBU) On July 26-27, French President Nicolas Sarkozy visited
Senegal as the first stop on his mission to some of France's former
African colonies. With the stated goal of heralding a new era in
Franco-African relationships, he delivered a major speech on his
African policy at a Dakar's Cheikh Anta Diop University. In his
usual provocative style, he pointed out that Africa's "tragedy" is
that "it has not been enough a part of history" and Africans "should
stop repeating endlessly the same words and gestures" and "become
conscious that the Golden Age they are regretting will not come back
because it has never existed." Though Sarkozy cited the "negative
aspects" of colonization and the slave trade as "a crime against
humanity," he urged African youth to stop blaming France and its
colonial past and to recognize the responsibility of Africans
themselves for Africa's failures. During his visit to Senegal,
Sarkozy also offered new economic development assistance. END
SUMMARY.

A DESIRE TO PROVOKE
-------------------
2. (SBU) As part of his July 26-27 visit to Senegal, many
Senegalese intellectuals expected French President Sarkozy's key
address at Dakar University to offer words, and perhaps financial
pledges, of support to an institution suffering from overcrowding
and acute budgetary problems. Surprisingly, after acknowledging
France's mistakes in its past relationships with Africa, Sarkozy
lectured Africans and urged them to take full responsibility for the
continent's failures. France, in his view, could not be held
responsible for "the dictatorships, the corruption, the fanaticism,
and bloody wars that Africans wage against each other." He further
urged Africans to avoid "self-hate" and the pitfall of rejecting
their "heritage" from Europe which is an important part of their own
history. He encouraged the establishment of a new partnership,
"Eurafrica," to address the effects of globalization and boost
economic development between Europe and Africa.

MIXED REACTIONS
---------------
3. (SBU) The media considered Sarkozy's speech paternalistic and
old-fashioned. Two weeks after the speech was delivered, editorials
and opinions are still common in the local media condemning the
French President's attitude towards Africa. One student told
Embassy political staff, "Sarkozy has no respect for Africans,
previous French presidents at least made the effort of using
diplomatic hypocrisy . . . with Sarkozy, France shows that it does
not count on us; we have to draw our own conclusions." One student
association leader noted that the speech led to heated debate on
campus, indicating that it was at first rejected by all, but a few
days later, students were divided into two camps - those who
considered that Sarkozy had "insulted Africans," and those who think
"he was just telling the truth." This student noted that the speech
is a starting point and it is time for Africans to "meet the
challenge." Some editorial writers have also used Sarkozy's address
to highlight the need for Senegal, especially the country's
political leaders and intellectuals, to distance itself from
France's political and cultural influence.

TOUGH TALK BUT MORE OFFERS OF ASSISTANCE
----------------------------------------
4. (SBU) On July 27, during a cabinet meeting, President Wade,
drawing from the main points of Sarkozy's visit, thanked the French
President for his committed support to "accompany" Senegal in its
efforts to develop a civil nuclear program. Wade noted that the two
countries agreed to "promote and protect investment reciprocally."
Sarkozy reportedly promised seven million euros for programs to help
rural communities in the Senegal River Valley, 1.8 million euros for
drinking water and sanitation, and new financing to the Senegalese
Water Company (SONES) jointly with the European Investment Bank and
the West African Development Bank. President Wade promised Sarkozy
that he would repatriate all Senegalese that are currently living
illegally in France.

COMMENT
-------
5. (SBU) If Sarkozy was hoping to inspire Senegalese to keep France
in their hearts as a key partner and cultural reference, he seems to
have fallen short of his objective. The speech at the university
generated a very subdued initial response, and a mostly critical
post facto public analysis. The debate about colonization and
slavery is no longer topical for many young Africans who are more
focused on how to achieve good governance and be a winner in
globalization. African youth who are obsessed by a desire to leave
the continent by any means probably did not hear Sarkozy. Many
Senegalese commentators believe that Sarkozy does not know Africa
and suspect he is seeking to unilaterally impose a new form of
"partnership" on them. His speech may well contribute to widening
the gap between France and African intellectuals who no longer
consider France to be a model, and which, according to one

DAKAR 00001655 002 OF 002


commentator, "has only useless lessons to offer." The deliverables
and pledges that accompanied the visit will also likely not stem the
current trend in Senegal that places an increasing importance on
economic ties to and development assistance from Gulf countries and
China, largely at the expense of French commercial and political
interests.

6. (SBU) At the same time, the merit of Sarkozy's message, for
some intellectuals, is that it raised real issues about Africa's
economic underdevelopment and pushes Africans to think about the
solutions. It also remains to be seen if this speech will be
translated into new French policies that would actually increase the
pressure on African leaders to promote good governance and encourage
the youth of the continent to demand more accountability from their
political leaders. End Comment.

SMITH

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