Cablegate: France's Changing Africa Policy: Part I

DE RUEHFR #1501/01 2141544
R 011544Z AUG 08

CO N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 06 PARIS 001501


E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/01/2018

REF: A. 05 PARIS 5459
B. 06 PARIS 5733

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Classified By: Political Minister-Counselor Kathleen Allegrone, 1.4 (b/

1. (C) SUMMARY: The revised Africa policy President
Nicolas Sarkozy announced after taking office in May 2007 is
taking shape. This new policy features a reduction and
consolidation of France's military presence to align it more
closely with Africa's regional structures, more
"business-like" relations replacing the "France-Afrique"
model, larger EU and UN roles, and increased expectations in
terms of transparency, good governance, and results on the
part of Africans receiving French aid. While the advantages
of France-Afrique allowed that model to endure for decades,
its saliency has weakened as the colonial era grows more
distant and as the political and economic costs to France of
backstopping former colonies have become harder to sustain.
In modernizing and normalizing relations with Africa, the
French risk losing some influence while reducing a number of
burdens. This is a trade-off they believe they must make,
and seem confident that the France engaged with Africans on
these new terms will be an attractive partner capable of
sustaining old relationships and cultivating and nurturing
new ones across the continent. The new policy may also
provide opportunities for the U.S. to extend its influence in
Africa without meeting French resistance or interference.
Part I (this message) provides historical background and
outlines Sarkozy's policy shift; Part II (septel) focuses on
its implementation and African reaction; Part III (septel)
centers on the new policy's military/security aspects. END

2. (C) Former Cote d,Ivoire President Houphouet-Boigny
reputedly coined the phrase "France-Afrique" (in French, the
more evocative "francafrique" with a cedilla under the "c")
to describe the complex web of economic, military, political,
social, and cultural ties that linked France with its former
colonies and to a lesser extent non-francophone Africa.
These ties, built over decades of colonial rule, persisted
after independence in the 1960s, and provided a mutually
beneficial environment for both sides, with Africans enjoying
French protection, military and security support, and, not
least, foreign aid.

3. (C) The governmental, educational, legal, military,
bureaucratic, and administrative systems and methods of many
former African colonies were modeled on French structures,
and many still are. French is often the official language
and lingua franca (sometimes in competition with a dominant
local language) in several African countries. Often, air
travel between nearby African countries could only be done by
transiting Paris. These factors alone guaranteed continuing
French influence post-independence in many African societies.
Other "benefits" were manifest: African leaders were able
to amass private fortunes sometimes transformed into vast
real estate and other holdings in France and elsewhere in
Europe, cases of which the press continues to uncover to this
day. France profited from a ready-made set of compliant
client states and leaders, easy access to resources and
markets for exports, and a tacitly accorded freedom of
action, both private and official, for French and locals
alike, of the sort that produced cases like the "Falcone
Affair," the long-running arms trafficking case in Angola.

4. (C) Culturally, Africans of the colonial and
independence eras were deeply steeped in French ways, with
some achieving high positions in France, e.g.,
Houphouet-Boigny's serving in the French government and
Senegal President Senghor's rise to the very pinnacle of
French society with his election to the Academie Francaise.
The African elite and their children were often schooled in
France, with the ever-expanding "francophonie" movement

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ensuring that they remained part of France's global network.
At the other end of the scale, tens of thousands of African
colonial troops fought for France during the World Wars and
other conflicts, with surviving veterans still receiving
pensions for their service to France.

5. (C) France-Afrique operated well for decades, under the
tutelage of a succession of "Mr. Africas" at the French
Presidency, beginning with the legendary and controversial
Jacques Foccart, Africa Advisor to de Gaulle, Pompidou, and,
briefly, Mitterrand and Chirac. Others in that role have
included Mitterrand's son Jean-Christophe. For many years,
the Africa Advisor at the Presidency did not report to the
President's Diplomatic Advisor (the French equivalent of our
National Security Advisor) but directly to the President,
thus enjoying a status equal to or perhaps even greater than
that of the Diplomatic Advisor (who had to worry about the
rest of the world), a fact not lost on those currying favor
at the Presidency.

Nothing Lasts Forever
6. (C) As the 20th century drew to a close, France-Afrique
as an effective model began having trouble adjusting to a
changing global landscape. We noted certain factors in Ref A
(05 Paris 5459 -- The Future of France in Sub-Saharan
Africa). These include shrinking older generations on both
sides wedded to France-Afrique; younger generations lacking
such knowledge and experience and less reflexively inclined
to view relations through the France-Afrique optic; increased
exposure of Africans to other parts of the world, either
first hand or through the omnipresent global media;
aggressive pursuit of African resources and commerce by
hitherto outsiders (e.g., especially China -- see Ref B, 06
Paris 5733 -- China in Africa); and, culturally and socially,
a growing exposure to non-French films, fashions, sports,
music, and literature, with the U.S. enjoying an advantage in
this area. Francophone Africans began to lose their tendency
to look to France as their model. In short, France-Afrique
began falling victim to several of globalization's effects.

7. (C) For France, the cost of maintaining France-Afrique
started becoming less commensurate with its returns, both
political and economic. France shifted to an all-volunteer
military in 2001, which immediately increased the cost of
sustaining a global military presence. EU requirements limit
deficit spending, France's traditionally generous safety net
and an aging population strain finances, and booming and
resource-hungry economies elsewhere raise the cost of
commercial transactions, threatening French privilege in
Africa. Cost-cutting, at home and abroad, has become a
priority for the GOF, and maintaining the qualitative and
quantitative investment France-Afrique entailed is becoming
harder to accomplish.

8. (C) Politically, brush fires have occurred that are
harder and more expensive to put out. The French are quite
bitter about Cote d,Ivoire, once a crown jewel of
France-Afrique, which spiraled into chaos after the death of
one of France-Afrique's biggest advocates and beneficiaries,
Houphouet-Boigny, reaching a nadir with the November 2004
bombing by Cote d,Ivoire of French forces in Bouake.
Operation Licorne in Cote d,Ivoire, perhaps France's last
unilateral military intervention in the old style, has cost
France about 250 million euro per year, or well over a
billion euro in total, without yielding decisive results.

9. (C) Other brush fires and scandals, which in earlier
days might have been ignored or covered up, have erupted with
regularity: Borrel in Djibouti, Kieffer in Cote d,Ivoire,
and Falcone in Angola, to name a few. In addition to
Falcone, other renegade French in recent times have been
making mischief across the continent -- Bob Dennard
repeatedly in the Comoros, Gnassingbe advisor Charles
Debbasch and arms dealer Robert Montoya in Togo (with effects
in Cote d,Ivoire), and, recently, the Zoe's Ark "rescue"

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mission of Darfur children.

10. (C) In the past, the GOF might have tacitly or openly
tolerated or even supported some of these activities. Now,
with an instant global media and the weakened cover afforded
by a deteriorating France-Afrique, these become problems, if
not major scandals, that must be addressed in a less
sheltered environment. One old-timer, commenting on
Sarkozy's trip to Chad in the Zoe's Ark case to seek the
partial release of French and other Europeans implicated in
the "adoption" scandal, sniffed that "it used to be that one
phone call from the Elysee would have settled this. How far
we have come that the President himself has to go there, and
even then, doesn't really finish the job." In pushing for
good governance, transparency, accountability, and a free
press as part of its democratization, foreign assistance, and
human rights agendas, France has partly become its own
victim, as those forces have helped bring scandals to light.

11. (C) France-Afrique provided privileges to France but
carried a burden of expectation that has become harder to
shoulder. Everyone acknowledged France's primacy in parts of
Africa, but this created expectations that when problems
arose, "the French will take care of it." France was long
able and willing to face these challenges when everyone
accepted this reality, but that is no longer the case.
France-Afrique has sometimes been a double-edged sword, with
some, including Africans, wanting France to intervene
forcefully when problems arise, but with others happy to
accuse France of acting unilaterally or as a
"neo-colonialist" when it does. "Damned if you do, damned if
you don't" has become an underlying theme in the debate over
France's role in Africa.

12. (C) The Chirac government, while aware of
France-Afrique's stagnation, was disinclined to do much about
it and tried to preserve France-Afrique's facade. Acting in
the old style, Chirac, to some embarrassment, was quick to
mourn the 2005 death of his "friend" Eyadema in Togo and to
accept quickly the questionable process that led to his son's
taking power. The Presidency, citing "executive privilege,"
refused to turn over records to judicial authorities
investigating the Borrel case, although Michel de Bonnecorse,
the Presidency's last "Mr. Africa," had to suffer the
indignity of having his personal home and vacation house
searched. As in the heyday of France-Afrique, the French
military was given a relatively free hand in responding
militarily to rebel incursions in Chad and C.A.R. prior to
the end of the Chirac era.

Sarkozy Brings Change
13. (C) As he did in other areas on taking office in May
2007, Sarkozy wrought change to the Africa account. His
basic approach has been to try to clean the slates, rid
relations of the colonial era hangover, and conduct more
"normal and business-like" relations with Africans. He is
quick to attribute events and activities before his
Presidency to "past French governments," always suggesting
that he represents a new era.

14. (C/NF) Sarkozy did away with the "Mr. Africa" position
-- at least on paper. He named Jean-David Levitte (who had
the same job under Chirac before becoming UN PermRep and then
Ambassador to the U.S.) as his Diplomatic Advisor, and Bruno
Joubert as Levitte's Deputy. Joubert, however, is also the
President's senior advisor on Africa and was previously MFA
A/S for Africa. The "Mr. Africa" position no longer
officially exists, but Joubert, already wearing one hat as
Levitte's Deputy, functionally also wears the hat the former
Africa Advisors wore, although he now reports to Levitte
rather than directly to the President. Two "technical
counselors" work with him -- Remi Marechaux (francophone
Africa plus South Africa, a specialty), and Romain Serman
(non-francophone Africa, UN issues, and crises). When one of
Marechaux's countries goes into crisis, Serman will often

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take charge. Marechaux was an MFA AF DAS-equivalent when
Joubert was MFA AF A/S, and Serman previously covered Africa
at the UN. Marechaux earlier worked at the Department under
the Fellowship of Hope exchange program.

15. (C/NF) Joubert, Marechaux, and Serman make an effective
team, with complementary styles -- Joubert a classic
diplomat, smooth, and savvy bureaucratically; Marechaux
intellectual, cerebral, and somewhat reserved; and Serman
fiery, action oriented, and a master of rapid repartee in
both French and English. They dominate African issues within
the GOF, and although they collaborate closely with MFA
colleagues, they seem to win intra-GOF disputes. Their MFA
counterparts -- AF A/S Jean de Gliniasty and DASs Helene Le
Gal, Christine Fages, and (temporarily) Christian Daziano --
are also quite capable and friendly, but they do not have the
same drive or clout that comes with being in close proximity
to the hyperactive and demanding Sarkozy. Joubert (who knew
her when he was MFA AF A/S) and Gliniasty handpicked
Charlotte Montel, a virtual first-tour officer (and 2009 IVLP
member), to serve in FM Kouchner's cabinet, ensuring the
presence of a dependable colleague on African issues within
Kouchner's inner circle. Montel's role has increased with
the recent departure of Laurent Contini (new Ambassador to
Zimbabwe), who was Kouchner's senior AF Advisor but who will
not be replaced.

The New Policy
16. (C) Sarkozy used three speeches to express publicly the
new direction Africa policy would take, in Dakar on July 26,
2007, in Lisbon at the EU-Africa Summit on December 8, 2007,
and in Cape Town on February 28, 2008. The general theme
emerging from these speeches is that France will seek to
modernize relations, get rid of lingering colonialist and
post-colonialist baggage, engage with Africans on a more
business-like and arms-length basis, no longer seek to play a
paternal role, and instead opt for a partnership among
equals. To be sure, Sarkozy promises continued French
engagement, but engagement based on a calculation of
interests rather than on inertia and outdated sentiments
deemed to be relics of the past. He calls on Africans to
meet this challenge and to begin relating to France and
others on the same basis.

17. (C) The speeches -- and the outlines of the new policy
-- were received with varying degrees of acceptance. The
Dakar speech included apologies for France's colonial past
but also suggested that Africans needed to acknowledge that
they derived benefits from the colonial period. Sarkozy
stated that Africans needed to become more self-reliant, less
dependent, and to take charge of their destinies without
raising "colonialism" and its ills as the continuing source
of their problems or as excuses. Some Africans welcomed
Sarkozy's speech as a necessary dose of reality while others
claimed that his call for a less paternalistic relationship
was delivered in a distinctly paternalistic and condescending
manner. (See Part II, septel, for a discussion of Africa
reactions to Sarkozy's policy.)

18. (C/NF) Presidential Advisor Serman later said that the
Dakar speech was drafted by Henri Guaino, Sarkozy's Special
Advisor, and had not been vetted by Levitte, Joubert's unit,
or the MFA. Serman believed the speech was too provocative
and not "diplomatic" enough and would have been revised had
Guaino not given it, uncleared, directly to Sarkozy. (Of
note, on July 26, 2008, one year after the Dakar speech,
Guaino published a self-serving article in Le Monde
justifying the approach he took in the speech.) The Lisbon
and Cape Town speeches received closer vetting and their tone
was less aggressive, although their contents built on the
foundation laid in Dakar. The Lisbon speech, delivered at
the EU-Africa Summit, stressed the importance of a strong
Europe working with a strong Africa. The centerpiece of the
Cape Town speech was Sarkozy's plan to change France's
military posture in Africa (analyzed in Part III, septel).

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"Reward the Good, Punish the Bad"
19. (C) Our GOF contacts say that Sarkozy's Africa policy
intends to "normalize" relations with Africa, strip them of
the France-Afrique veneer, make them more transparent, hold
Africans to certain standards of accountability and
responsibility, and end France-Afrique's long cycle of
dependency and paternalism. Serman puts it succinctly:
"Sarkozy wants to reward the good and punish the bad." The
GOF views some of the Defense Agreements (see Part III,
septel) maintained with eight African countries as patently
absurd and out of date -- for example, Serman says that
several agreements give France exclusive monopoly rights to
natural resources. "Nobody pays any attention to this, so we
need to get rid of it all and stop playing pretend."

U.S. an Attractive Partner in Africa
20. (C) Sarkozy's policy acknowledges the growing role in
Africa of former outsiders such as China and takes a
favorable view towards increased U.S. engagement. Although
skeptical at first and sensitive about protecting French
influence, the French have gradually come to accept, if not
welcome, U.S. activities such as AFRICOM, TSCTP, ACOTA, AGOA,
MCC, and other Africa-centric U.S. projects. The French do
not find them threatening and, moreover, they offer the
possibility of a new U.S. willingness to "share the burden"
in Africa that earlier fell largely on France. Moreover, the
French are comfortable with an expanding U.S. presence in
Africa as a counterbalance to China's regional expansion.
Sarkozy's policy, combined with his generally favorable views
of the U.S., may allow the U.S. a freer hand in Africa, at
least as far as the French are concerned.

21. (C) Similarly, the French are seeking to increase EU
and UN engagement in Africa as another form of burdensharing
and to allow France to operate discreetly behind EU and/or UN
cover. The French have actively sought EU and UN involvement
in recent years, from elections support in a number of places
to military support in DRC and Chad/C.A.R. Success in
lobbying EU members (and some non-members) to deploy EUFOR in
Chad and C.A.R., although deployment required the French to
provide more troops and equipment than first desired, was a
significant political milestone in French eyes and the EUFOR
case may represent the way the French will try to engage the
EU in future crises. The French went out of their way to
depict this as an EU and not French activity. The possible
transformation of EUFOR into a UN PKO would also be
consistent with French desires to increase the UN's role in
crisis management, a process that has also worked in Cote
d,Ivoire with the linkage between the French Operation
Licorne and UNOCI.

22. (C) As noted in Ref B and above, the French remain
concerned about China's growing influence in Africa and
believe that the Chinese employ methods to achieve their ends
that are no longer practiced (at least not so overtly or
boldly) by France and the West. They express frustration
that the Chinese can operate so effectively, acknowledge that
many African countries are easily seduced by Chinese
practices, but also are quick to notice any African backlash
suggesting that there is "too much China too fast" in Africa,
a backlash that seems to be gathering momentum. Publicly,
Sarkozy's attitude has been that France has no objection to
China's becoming more present in Africa -- so long as
Africans apply the same rules to the Chinese that are applied
to everyone else.

Policy as a Reflection of Personality
23. (C) The new Africa policy -- a break with the past, the
shelving of relations based on history and sentiment, the
call for rationalizing relations and having them reflect the
shared interests of equals, the insistence on transparency
and accountability, the desire to work constructively in

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Africa with partners such as the U.S., EU, and UN -- seems
very much a reflection of Sarkozy himself, who came to office
in a hurry to initiate reform left and right, and not simply
to tinker on the margins. There have been a few setbacks on
the domestic front, where he has had to compromise when faced
with entrenched groups willing to push back. In foreign
affairs, however, he has had a freer hand, and in some ways
France-Afrique was an institution waiting to be changed.
Previous French leaders talked about changing France's
relations with Africa and may have taken a few steps but
Sarkozy is doing significantly more than that, at least from
today's vantage point..

24. (C) One close observer reminds that Sarkozy, himself a
sharp break with French tradition, is the first French
President to have grown up without meaningful personal
experience with the colonial era and is therefore free of
sentimental attachment to France-Afrique. To Sarkozy,
France-Afrique no longer makes sense, with France and Africa
needing to modernize their ties and move on, based on a
calculation of interests on both sides, which, in Sarkozy's
view for the French, boils down to "reward the good, punish
the bad."

25. (C) How have the French gone about implementing this
new policy and how have Africans reacted to it? See Part II
(septel) for a discussion of those topics.

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