DRC/ROC/NIGER: FRENCH PRESIDENCY'S READOUT OF
SARKOZY'S MARCH 26-27 VISITS
REF: A. PARIS 399
B. KINSHASA 291
C. BRAZZAVILLE 101
D. NIAMEY 234
E. 08 PARIS 1501
F. 08 PARIS 1568
G. 08 PARIS 1698
Classified By: Political Minister-Counselor Kathleen Allegrone, 1.4 (b/
d).
1. (C) SUMMARY: President Sarkozy's March 26-27 visits to
the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Republic of Congo
(ROC), and Niger were intended to promote democratic
principles, shared business interests, and, more generally,
Sarkozy's policy of moving away from the "France-Afrique"
model of managing relations to a more modern one based on
partnership, according to Presidential Deputy Diplomatic
Advisor Bruno Joubert on April 3. Joubert said that Sarkozy
had accomplished what he had set out to do and that the
Africans with whom he met better understood French policy
toward the region and where Sarkozy wants to take relations,
even if they were not completely comfortable with the new
paradigm. On the DRC and Rwanda, Joubert explained that
France wanted to promote cooperation between the two and
suggested starting with a number of small economic and
development projects that would show quick results and
encourage further cooperation. Joubert said that he planned
to travel to the U.S. during the April 14-15 period and hoped
to meet with officials at the Department (AF A/S-Designate
Carson), NSC (AF Senior Director Gavin), and USUN (PermRep
Rice). END SUMMARY.
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France-Afrique
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4. (C) Rather than provide a narrative of Sarkozy's visit,
Joubert placed it within the context of France's evolving
Africa policy and its movement, under Sarkozy, away from the
classic colonial and post-colonial "France-Afrique" model and
towards a more modern relationship based on shared interests
and a partnership among equals (ref E-G). He said that the
visit, most notably as expressed in Sarkozy's speech before
the DRC parliament, was an extension of remarks that Sarkozy
had made in Cape Town in February 2008 on the need for
rational relationships free of the baggage of the past.
Joubert said that the new policy faced several challenges,
one of which he described as a predilection on the part of
the French public and press to view relations with Africa as
inherently "corrupt, sordid, and scandal-ridden." The public
and press often looked at Africa only from this angle. One
of Sarkozy's aims was to carry out a visit crisply,
efficiently, and transparently. He wanted to show that
France could deal with its African partners as
straightforwardly as it dealt with its other partners, and
Joubert deemed this aspect of the visit a success, even if
its briskness and openness left the press, critics, and some
Africans a bit perplexed.
5. (C) Always seeking to put a negative light on relations,
some observers, while claiming to condemn "France-Afrique,"
at the same time accused Sarkozy of trying to "rupture"
French relations with Africa. Joubert said that neither
Sarkozy nor anyone else speaking officially for France had
ever used the term "rupture." The move away from
"France-Afrique" was instead a "turning of a page" and a
shift in direction towards a more modern and balanced
relationship.
6. (C) Thus partnership was an underlying theme of the
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visit. In Niger, for example, where French
extractive-industry giant AREVA and its activities were a
central element of the visit, Sarkozy stressed not only the
mutual benefits derived from AREVA's uranium operations but
also the other positive aspects of AREVA's presence in terms
of improved roads and infrastructure for the common good.
The same was true for AREVA's activities in the DRC.
7. (C) Another theme was democracy and good governance,
with Joubert noting that France was unfairly accused of only
supporting "old regimes." Sarkozy's speeches in the DRC and
ROC stressed the need for both countries to adhere to
democratic principles and that these principles were not
something applicable only in the West. Joubert said that
Sarkozy's stop in Brazzaville had to be managed "delicately."
As also noted ref C, Sarkozy did not want to appear to be
campaigning for President Sassou Nguesso regarding elections
later in 2009, and Joubert pointed out that Sarkozy met with
opposition figures to underscore that point.
8. (C) Asked how the press and Africans viewed the visit,
Joubert said that the press response was muted, in part
because the visit did not take place according to press
preconceptions. Joubert indicated that this was a positive
development insofar as the press was forced to think about
the visit. Joubert said that African leaders seemed to
understand what Sarkozy's approach represented in terms of
transparent, straightforward dealings, although they may not
have been completely comfortable with it. Speaking quite
candidly, Joubert said that "you have to understand, many of
these leaders, such as Sassou Nguesso, have grown up with
'France-Afrique.' When they used to meet with Chirac, it was
all backslapping, jokes, long leisurely meals, and plenty of
anecdotes about the old days, when they and Chirac were
younger and coming up together. Sarkozy isn't like that at
all; it takes some getting used to for some of them. There
were a few comments about why Sarkozy didn't at least spend
the night at each of his stops. They are beginning to see
that Sarkozy is not here to carry on the old backslapping
ways."
DRC-Rwanda