François Hollande’s African galaxy

François Hollande’s African galaxy

The holding in Paris on Thursday and Friday of the Africa France forum in the presence of several French and African ministers is an opportunity to review the African action of the Head of State. Is it positive?

François Hollande in December 2013

The conversion will have been rapid. While he had hardly ever set foot in Africa before his election, François Hollande made the Franco-African relationship one of the priorities of his foreign policy. The organization this Thursday and Friday of the Africa France forum by the Quai d’Orsay in the presence of several French and African ministers is an opportunity to review the African action of the Head of State. What is it?

Organization of a France-Africa summit in February 2015 in Paris, trips to Mali, Angola, the Central African Republic or Cameroon to promote economic interests and defend regional stability, the Head of State will have played on several tables. “François Hollande knows that it is an area where France can continue to exist on the international scene as we have seen with the military interventions in Mali or in the Central African Republic, analyzes Bruno Delaye, diplomat, head of the“ African cell »Of the Élysée from 1992 to 1995. He also perceives the economic interest of a continent whose countries have a growth which often exceeds 5%. And the good relations that he maintains with several presidents facilitate all this ”.

For many years, François Hollande has indeed been very close to certain heads of state met within the framework of the Socialist International when he was First Secretary of the PS. In the first row, we can cite the Guinean President, Alpha Condé, with whom he exchanges regularly by SMS or another socialist “comrade”, the President of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou. The Head of State is also very close to Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, a graduate of the Sorbonne, and a major ally of France in the fight against terrorism. He also has good relations with the strong man of sub-Saharan Africa, Chadian President Idriss Déby. It is also in N’Djamena that France installed the HQ of Operation Barkhane led by the French army in the Sahel. Senegalese presidents, Macky Sall and Ivorian presidents, Alassane Ouattara, are also among those with whom François Hollande has good relations.

“Holland chose the map of realpolitik”

But when he came to power, the Head of State wanted to broaden the perspective, by approaching several leaders of English-speaking and Portuguese-speaking Africa, in particular on the recommendations of his “Africa” advisor, Hélène Le Gal, former Director “Central and Eastern Africa” at the Quai d’Orsay (since appointed French Ambassador to Israel). So he received the new President of Nigeria Muhammadu Buhari in September 2015 at the Elysee Palace. He also forged cordial relations with the Tanzania of Jakaya Kikwete and the Kenya of Uhuru Kenyatta. An evolution essentially motivated by economic concerns, these countries being among the most prosperous on the continent. “Nicolas Sarkozy had started to speak to these countries but he did not go to the end, weighed down in particular by his Dakar speech of 2007, too paternalistic, and by a lack of conviction of the African potential, points out a former ambassador of France on the continent. François Hollande, he plays the realpolitik card to the full.

Other notable developments under the Hollande five-year term: the much maligned Ministry of Cooperation, renamed the Ministry of Development, has lost its political role. While Bercy no longer has economic influence, since since 2014 the Quai d’Orsay has taken over Foreign Trade. As for relations with cumbersome leaders (Ali Bongo, Joseph Kabila, Denis Sassou Nguesso), which François Hollande frequents as little as possible, they are the prerogative of the Minister of Defense, Jean-Yves Le Drian.

The business card

The one who, in October 2012, proclaimed that “the time of Françafrique (was) over” does not stop repeating during his travels on the continent that the Franco-African relationship must be marked with the seal of “respect, clarity and solidarity ”. François Hollande has moreover proved it with regard to the Gabonese crisis. Since after letting the Quai d’Orsay react quite vigorously, particularly with regard to Ali Bongo’s camp, the Élysée has shown a certain silence, sending the signal that “African affairs should no longer be to settle in Paris ”as a French diplomat confided. “Nicolas Sarkozy had suppressed” the African cell “of the Elysee, François Hollande continues this standardization by focusing on business”, adds Pierre Vimont, chief of staff to the Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2002 and 2007.

The African action of the President of the Republic was therefore not insignificant. For Antoine Glaser, a connoisseur of the continent (he founded and directed for 26 years Letter from the Continent, devoted to Africa) and author of the book “Arrogant comme un Français en Afrique” (published by Fayard on March 14), she is even rather positive. Antoine Glaser writes in particular that “François Hollande has become on the continent a true“ porpoise ”of honor” and that it is “perhaps on the ground of Africa that the President of the Republic exercises the fullness of his power”. And to conclude on the action of the current Head of State: “For the Africans,“ General Hollande ”, through the Serval and then Barkhane operations, tries to partially correct the errors of appreciation of his predecessor, great initiator of the operation in Libya ”. In the end, François Hollande proves that he gave as much importance to the Zambezi as to the Corrèze.