France bungles Policy

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Wed Mar 7 20:27:23 UTC 2007

France Bungles Policy

The East African (Nairobi)

Posted to the web March 6, 2007

By Oscar Kimanuka Nairobi

There appears to be a renewed momentum in the new Scramble for Africa as
China and the United States compete to redefine their role on the
continent. The recently concluded 24th France-Africa Summit in Cannes in
southern France is an apt example. The summit, attended by heads of state
and representatives from Africa, sought to "reassure France's former
colonies - and other African countries - that France will continue to
champion African causes on the global stage." For France, "la
francophonie" - the language, culture and history it shares with its
former colonies - is becoming increasingly harder to sell;  what with the
competition from the Chinese, American, Indian and South African players
for Africa's increasingly strategic resources.

This is worsened by what Ross Herbert of the South African Institute for
International Affairs in Johannesburg terms the "anti-democratic behaviour
prevailing among the (francophone) leaders, and corruption, and economic
and political decay." French presidential candidate Segolene Royal seems
to agree with this in an editorial for Temoignage Chretien, a Catholic
weekly. She wrote, "...  our country is associated in African minds with
the most questionable regimes on the continent." She blames this on the
sitting president's friendship with such regimes. In five decades of
France-Africa summits, France has offered continued material and military
aid to prop up unelected leaders, some of whom have been around for
decades thanks to elections that have largely become a mockery of

FRENCH COMPANIES are equally guilty. For instance, Elf Aquitaine has been
closely related to the enduring system of Franco-African relations,
"Francafrique." Beyond the formal institutions, "Francafrique" worked
through a system of international clientelism, combining corruption and
force, economic, political and social exchanges, and public and private
relations. All in all, Franco-African relations were and continue to be
paternal. The summit in Cannes had all the makings of an attempt to
continue this system of paternalism.

Oscar Kimanuka is a commentator on social and economic issues based in


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