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Elections in France: What future for Franco-African relations?

If François Hollande’s mandate resulted, if not a rupture, in a return of the French gendarme to Africa, what years to come? Africa has been insignificantly involved in the campaign, though it is mentioned in the programs. Some people even came to the continent. So, continuity or renewal?

By Dounia Ben Mohamed


February 24, 2010, in Libreville, Nicolas Sarkozy faithful to a French tradition that every newcomer to the Elysée Palace should go to Gabon, announced: the era of « networks, tutoring and lessons » is « over », the same for « clichés, fantasies and intention processes ». Francois Hollande, who will not have travelled to Gabon throughout his term of office, even if he received Ali Bongo at the Elysée Palace, said on October 12, 2012, in Dakar: « The time of France-Africa is over: there is France, there is Africa, there is a partnership between France and Africa, with relations based on respect, clarity and solidarity. Scorching his predecessor, who did not hesitate to launch, in the Teranga land, « the drama of Africa is that the African has not been sufficiently imbedded in history. » But finally, with this promise for change, Francois Hollande’s mandate would result in an increasing French military presence in Africa, radio silence on constitutional coups and other human rights barriers, and a protection of French economic interests, far from being assumed, but more evident.

2016, the year of election coups

« On May 6, 2012, the election of François Hollande aroused many hopes in Africa. A few days before the next presidential election, how can you evaluate Holland’s African policy? « Said Régis Essono, head of Africa EELV group (Europe Ecology-the Green). The President closed his eyes to democratic shortcomings, welcomed Sassou-Nguesso accused of crime against humanity, and the French military troops in Africa. In fact, the figures are more than revealing. The number of « constitutional coups » has exploded over the last five years: « 2016 will have been the year of election coups. We have never registered so many coups. Since 1990, there had been a dozen of coups, whereas in 2016 there will be four in a row. With this situation, France and the international community have had no reaction. In the same way, as the National Assembly and the head of the government, who no longer have something to say in French African policy, a prerogative of the Elysée with, around the head of state, Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister of Defense; Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs; Hélène Le Gal and Thomas Mélonio, as advisers in charge of African matters. The latter would guide Holland’s roadmap towards a clear area: facing the loss of influence of Paris, France, economically and politically under the guise of countering terrorism, strengthened its military troops in Africa marked by the summit on peace and security, organized in December 2013 in Paris and which would follow, in particular, the wars in Mali and in the Central African Republic.

Here again, the figures are more than explicit: Out of 13,000 men abroad, 10,000 French soldiers operate in Africa. And if the past regional allied soldiers are no longer part of the game, new players come into play, one in particular: Idriss Déby, President of Chad, who takes control of the trans-Saharan traffic in place of Khadafi. The internal political situation, the election fraud and arrest of opponents and journalists, will not prevent Déby from becoming a centerpiece of the new French African strategy, versus François Hollande, which aims to restore to France its weight in Africa, while it is heavily challenged even in its pre-square, by the new « friends of Africa », including the Chinese, but also the Turks on the aggressive offensive, not forgetting the Moroccans, champions of south-south cooperation, officially allied to Paris but more and more wonderful opponents … To quote only one figure: 60% of French exports to Africa in 1960, the proportion felled to 5% in 2015. The army then became the tool securing French interests in the continent, like the French military base in Niger, located a few meters from Areva’s uranium mining site and supplying it.

« We finally realize that there is no political vision but a reaction to the observation of decreasing performance of French companies in Africa »

We wonder whether this strategy will be successful. While the budget allocated to military credits was increasing, more than € 3.4 billion in 2016, of which 70% was allocated to Africa, France is still losing ground in the continent, in its influence areas such as English-speaking Africa where it trampled; worse, the disenchantment of African population for France was strengthened. « We finally realize that there is no political vision but a reaction to the observation of the loss of decreasing performance of French companies in Africa, » deplored Julie Owono, lawyer, responsible for Africa’s Internet without borders. We must not delude ourselves; France is not powerful for nothing. But it can no longer arrive with its big hoofs and make the law without the populations’ reaction. This creates frustrations which do not remain only in Africa. The time has therefore come for the renewal of the African policy of France. « What was going to happen in DR Congo, Chad, Gabon, Regis will weigh on France-Africa relations ». To follow…


Author : Dounia Ben Mohamed // Photos : 1. François Hollande, Dakar, October 2012, © Elysée – 2. Bamako meeting, January 2017, © Elysée

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