Cablegate: "Francafrique" -- Mfa Disputes Reports On a Return

DE RUEHFR #1534/01 3230937
P 190937Z NOV 09

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 PARIS 001534



E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/19/2019

REF: A. 08 PARIS 1501
B. 08 PARIS 1568
C. 08 PARIS 1698

Classified By: Andrew Young, Political Counselor, reason 1.4 (b and d).

1. (C) Summary: MFA's AF Assistant Secretary-equivalent
Stephan Gompertz denied that France's approach to Africa is
backsliding into the patterns of previous administrations'
"francafrique." He insisted that France is not interfering
in African countries' internal politics. He said that in
the recent examples of Gabon, Niger, and Guinea, France has
supported democratic change. Gompertz admits the "insider"
influence of Robert Bourgi, and laments that France is still
not focused on a more strategic approach to Africa. At the
same time, he claims, (somewhat questionably), that it is the
MFA's leadership that is driving the GOF's relations in
Africa. In our view, France remains committed to its stated
policy of developing transparent partnerships with Africans
but, when pressed by circumstances, may resort to the more
opaque ways associated with "francafrique" when doing so is
in France's national interest. End summary.

2. (C) During a November 17 meeting with Pol Minister
Counselor, the MFA's AF Assistant Secretary-equivalent
Stephan Gompertz disputed the assertions made in a November
13 New York Times article that France "still pulls the
strings" in Francophone Africa ("Ill Will Grows in a Former
Colonial Regional as France Consorts With the Powerful," by
Adam Nossiter), as well as similar commentary offered in
recent weeks by the French media. Gompertz strongly denied
that France interferes in a country's internal politics, and
asserted that Sarkozy remains serious about moving away from
the paternalistic and secret dealings of France's
"francafrique" era. (Note: see Reftels for detailed
analysis of "France's Changing Africa Policy." End note.)

3. (C) Responding to specific cases cited in the Nossiter
article, Gompertz said the selective information presented
was "unfair." He first seized on the example of Gabon's
recent presidential elections, and insisted that France would
have supported a different electoral outcome than Ali Bongo
if the opposition had organized themselves to achieve
victory. Having received almost 60 percent of the vote, it
was the splintered and uncoordinated opposition that allowed
Bongo to win, not France. Gompertz added that in his
personal view Bongo was a more credible candidate than the
two main opposition leaders, and asserted that Bongo has done
"a pretty good job, so far," especially on addressing Gabon's
endemic corruption.

4. (C) For Niger, Gompertz said that "we are troubled." (The
day before, with AF DAS Fitzgerald, Gompertz said that France
was "embarrassed" by the situation in Niger.) Gompertz
claimed, however, that France led the international charge
trying to stop President Tandja from changing the
constitution and holding elections for a third term. He was
bothered that the NY Times piece showed an old photo of
Sarkozy and Tandja together, without explaining that Sarkozy
later publicly advised Tandja to respect Niger's constitution
and not stand for a third term. Gompertz added that after
Tandja succeeded in his constitutional referendum, State
Secretary Joyandet and later Foreign Minister Kouchner
publicly and privately encouraged Tandja to postpone his
election in order to work out a more democratic solution.
Gompertz acknowledged that France had important interests in
Niger, in particular its uranium concessions, and that France
was very concerned about AQIM threats in the country. Still,
it is unfair to describe France's efforts in Niger were not
sincere, Gompertz said.

5. (C) The NY Times article also commented on the situation
in Guinea, but Gompertz stressed that FM Kouchner was the
most vocal and active critic of the regime after the
September 28 violence. According to Gompertz, Kouchner
pushed for the establishment of the International Contact
Group, persuaded the EU to take a firm stand and pursue
sanctions against Guinea's ruling junta, and it was Kouchner
who convinced Senegalese President Wade to evacuate injured
opposition leader Cellou Diallo to Dakar.

6. (C) Gompertz noted that Senior French officials, both at
the MFA (and, in our experience, at the Elysee) routinely
meet with African opposition leaders, both in Paris and
overseas, adding that Joyandet was scheduled to meet with

PARIS 00001534 002 OF 003

Cellou Diallo that afternoon.

7. (C) Gompertz admitted that France's Africa policy does
have problems, most notably, that France continues to focus
most of its efforts on its former colonies, even though they
are not necessarily the most strategically important.
Gompertz hopes to push for a stronger engagement with
Anglophone and Lusaphone Africa. (Note: GOF officials
frequently cite Nigeria, Angola, and South Africa as three of
France's key emerging partners in Africa. Gompertz was
departing the same afternoon for Morocco and South Africa.
End note.) Similarly, too much of France's political and
cooperation resources in Africa are designed to reinforce its
partnerships within the international "Francophonie"
organization. Gompertz cited the example of Burundi, where
English is replacing French as the most popular foreign
language, but he said this is understandable given Burundi's
important trade links in the East African Community. At the
same time, he related that while he was Ambassador to
Ethiopia, there was a strong demand for French language
teachers, but France was not responsive in helping meet this

8. (C) Targeting more closely the topic of "francafrique,"
Gompertz said he "regretted" that lawyer and presidential
advisor Robert Bourgi (touted by the French press as the new
standard bearer of the old "francafrique") was Sarkozy's
friend, but "that's a fact of life." While admitting that
Bourgi operates in the shadows and has influence on France's
approach to Africa, Gompertz stated forcefully that policy
for sub-Saharan Africa is led by "Kouchner, Joyandet, and

9. (C) The sincere and mild-mannered Gompertz almost worked
up a dander in defending France's approach to Africa as well
as the importance of the MFA's leadership. However, though
not entirely at odds with Gompertz's assertions, the GOF's
Africa policy hands increasingly suggest France's need to
contrast the importance of stability in a volatile region
with nobler democratic ideals, as has been shown in Niger,
Mauritania, Madagascar, and, perhaps, now in Guinea.
Unfortunately, there was not time during this meeting to ask
about other notorious "francafrique" hotspots, such as the
Republic of Congo, Togo, Cameron, and Equatorial Guinea.
Also, by downplaying the role of Bourgi, and by not
commenting on the important role of the Presidency's
Secretary General Claude Gueant (also a friend of Bourgi) in
shaping France's relations with African leaders, Gompertz,
perhaps unwittingly, revealed his own concerns about a
philosophical division between the Elysee and the MFA on
Africa policy.

10. (C) Clearly, there is much jostling between the MFA and
Presidency for Africa policy leadership. Remi Marechaux, one
of the staff-level Africa advisors at the Elysee, scoffs
whenever the issue of a resurgent "francafrique" is raised.
He pointedly notes that during "francafrique's" heyday under
the legendary Jacques Foccart, the Africa cell at the
Presidency numbered about 80, including its own intelligence
unit. Marechaux contrasts that with today's Africa cell at
the Presidency, consisting of himself, Romain Serman (soon to
be replaced by Clement Leclerc), and their recently-arrived
boss (and Deputy Diplomatic Advisor) Andre Parant, who
replaced Bruno Joubert. Marechaux bristles at the notion
that the three of them are pulling strings the way their 80
predecessors did. Marechaux says that the role of the
Elysee's Africa cell is to channel the policy ideas of
President Sarkozy (admittedly influenced by Bourgi, Gueant,
special advisor Henri Guaino, and Sarkozy's other close
associates) and that the MFA's role is to do what
bureaucracies traditionally do -- either implement those
ideas or explain, with bureaucratic thoroughness, why those
ideas are not feasible.

11. (C) Our own view is that there is a wide range of policy
approaches available to the French, a spectrum running from
the more ideal approaches Sarkozy expressed in his early days
in office (reftels) to the more opaque but possibly more
expedient approaches conforming to the old "francafrique"
model. Circumstances and the unpredictable, sometimes
violent nature of events in Africa may at times tempt or even
force the French to act less ideally than they may want -- a
form of behavior familiar to every other government in the

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world -- when decisions are based on a need to further the
national interest in the most effective way possible, even
when the most effective way may not be the prettiest way. We
find the GOF's professional cadre of Africa hands accessible,
open, and wanting to find common ground with the U.S. in many
situations. Gompertz appeared as a man with a burden lifted
when he was reminded of The New York Times' November 17
article asserting large-scale corruption by Equatorial
Guinean Minister (and the President's son), Teodoro Nguema
Obiang, reportedly a frequent visitor to and investor in the

12. (U) Conakry and Tripoli minimize considered.

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