Viewing cable 05PARIS439

05PARIS4392005-01-25 13:27:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Paris
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 PARIS 000439 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/24/2015 
REF: A. 04 PARIS 9167 
     ¶B. 04 PARIS 9146 
     ¶C. 04 PARIS 9145 
     ¶D. 04 PARIS 9133 
     ¶E. 04 PARIS 9130 
Classified By: Political Minister Counselor Josiah Rosenblatt 
for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d) 
¶1. (C) SUMMARY:  This is the last of a series of messages 
(reftels) briefly summarizing French relations with African 
nations.  For the last two years, France's Africa policy has, 
of necessity, been focused on the crisis in Cote d'Ivoire. 
Two years after France hosted the Linas-Marcoussis and Kleber 
Center meetings designed to resolve the crisis, France is 
pessimistic and unable to exert direct political influence on 
the Ivoirian actors.  Relations with neighboring states have 
been influenced by the Ivoirian crisis, with the French 
seeking to establish better relations with Guinea, knowing 
that a crisis there would seriously strain their diplomatic 
and military resources.  In Burkina Faso, France has urged 
the GoBF not to interfere in Cote d'Ivoire.  In Ghana and 
Nigeria, France seeks to engage Presidents Kufuour and 
Obasanjo in the search for an end to the crisis.  President 
Chirac's upcoming trip to Senegal, however, is likely to 
focus on the bilateral relationship. END SUMMARY. 
¶2. (C) Two years after the signature of the Linas-Marcoussis 
accords, Cote d'Ivoire continues to consume the time of 
French Africa policy makers, but France's ability to 
influence events politically has substantially declined. 
Among the reasons for the loss of French influence are: 
- Apparent mutual distrust, even dislike, between Presidents 
Chirac and Gbagbo; 
- The departure from the MFA of Dominique de Villepin who, 
although having very poor relations with Gbagbo and his 
circle, was inclined to engage on African issues to an extent 
his successor, Michel Barnier is not; 
- The November 2004 bombing of a French military position at 
Bouake and the subsequent killing by French forces of 
Ivoirian demonstrators in Abidjan. 
¶3. (C) Unable to exert significant influence on the parties 
directly, the French are now obliged to work through the AU 
and the UNSC to try to move the process towards the goal of 
elections which the French hope will produce a President with 
an uncontested mandate.  We anticipate that, in addition to 
supporting South African President Mbeki's AU-mandated 
mediation efforts, France will seek to strengthen the mandate 
and increase the force level for UNOCI, placing an increasing 
burden on the UN to achieve the objective of credible 
elections.  Meanwhile, the 4,462 French troops currently 
deployed in "Operation Licorne" are criticized by both 
Gbagbo's circle and the opposition for favoring each other, 
and they and civilian French nationals remaining in Cote 
d'Ivoire are potential targets for the Young Patriots or 
other street gangs.  The MFA currently estimates that there 
are 7,000 French citizens in Cote d'Ivoire, 6,000 of whom 
have both Ivoirian and French nationality. 
¶4. (C) In this environment, there is occasional media 
speculation that France might be tempted to rid itself of the 
turbulent Gbagbo by any means available.  Our interlocutors 
tell us that the days when France could remove a head of 
state are in the past, and our judgment is that France would 
not risk an operation to remove Gbagbo.  The more pressing 
question, in our view, is whether France will maintain its 
military presence as a back up to UNOCI until elections take 
place.  For now, we are told that Licorne will remain 
deployed at current levels until the elections.  However, 
that could change should the crisis deteriorate further to an 
extent that elections become impossible, or if (and here we 
defer to Embassy Abidjan on the possibility) Gbagbo were to 
demand that Licorne be withdrawn.  Clearly,  the consequences 
for the remaining French nationals of a withdrawal of French 
forces would be serious.  The same is true for France's 
credibility throughout Africa.  Such a decision will not be 
taken lightly, but with the French media and some 
parliamentarians increasingly questioning the utility of 
France's (costly) military presence, we believe that the 
possibility that Chirac might decide to bring the troops home 
cannot be discounted. 
¶5. (C) France experienced decades of difficult relations with 
Guinea, dating back to Sekou Toure's 1958 rejection of a 
proposed "Communaute Francaise," leading to a French embargo. 
 Relations hardly improved after Toure's death in 1984 and 
Lansana Conte's accession to power.  However, in 2004, Michel 
de Bonnecorse, President Chirac's advisor on African affairs 
met with Conte in an effort to turn the page.  MFA officials 
tell us that with crises elsewhere in the region, France 
cannot sustain a Guinea policy based on waiting for the 
ailing Conte to die.  They have been impressed by the caliber 
of Guinean ministers and France is seeking to assist Guinea 
in its dealings with the IFIs. 
¶6. (C) Almost all of our dialogue with the GoF on Sierra 
Leone has been in connection with our unsuccessful efforts to 
solicit a French contribution for the running of the Sierra 
Leone Special Court.  France has no particular interests in 
Sierra Leone beyond seeking a regional solution to the crises 
in the Mano River Union states which would address the 
capacity of armed groups to cross borders freely. 
¶7. (C) Liberia has almost dropped off the French agenda since 
July 2002, when Michel Dupuch retired as Chirac's African 
affairs advisor.  Dupuch, who was French Ambassador in Cote 
d'Ivoire for fourteen years, was reportedly close to Charles 
Taylor and was undoubtedly behind accusations made by the 
presidency in the spring of 2002 (not coordinated with the 
MFA) about USG support for the LURD.  Press reports also 
linked Dupuch with the activities of French companies in 
Liberia's timber industry.  As with Sierra Leone, France's 
political interest in Liberia is entirely based on its need 
to find a solution for its problems in Cote d'Ivoire. 
¶8. (C) Following the onset of the current crisis in Cote 
d'Ivoire in September 2002, French officials told us 
privately that they had no doubt that the GoBF was supporting 
the rebels (now New Forces).  They told us that the reason 
France would not make this public was not because it would 
require France to defend Cote d'Ivoire in accordance with a 
bilateral defense treaty, but because to do so would subject 
the Burkinabe population in Cote d'Ivoire to reprisals.  The 
MFA assures us that Chirac and Villepin told President 
Compaore to cease his support for those seeking to overthrow 
Gbagbo.  However, they view Compaore's role in Cote d'Ivoire 
as a step back in his efforts to rehabilitate himself after 
years of arms transfers through Burkina Faso from Libya, 
destined for Charles Taylor's Liberia. 
¶9. (C) President Chirac visited Mali and Niger in October 
2003, where he was portrayed as a champion of the developing 
world and feted by those who approved of France's opposition 
to military operations in Iraq.  The visit, like France's 
relations with Mali and Niger generally, was focused on 
economic and developmental issues such as cotton prices and 
potable water. 
¶10. (C) Ghanaian President Kufuor is one of the few 
anglophone African heads of state (with Obasanjo and Mbeki) 
who receives regular high-level French attention.  His role 
when ECOWAS chair and his engagement on Cote d'Ivoire are 
obvious reasons, but we sense that the French genuinely 
admire Kufuor.  France's relationship with Togo is perhaps 
better described as Chirac's relationship with Gnassingbe 
Eyadema.  In this relationship, we see the MFA as impotent in 
view of the decades-long friendship between the two 
presidents.  Eyadema's revisions of the Togolese 
constitution, rigging of elections, and human rights abuses 
are all glossed over as France seeks to persuade its European 
partners to resume assistance to Togo.  France's relations 
with Benin are uncontroversial and largely focused on 
cooperation issues, most recently the holding of the latest 
French military training program in Benin in 2004. 
¶11. (C) French interests in Nigeria are principally economic. 
 Chirac's political exchanges with President Obasanjo are 
focused on Cote d'Ivoire or whatever other crisis is current 
in Africa.  France is anxious to see Nigeria comply with the 
ICJ ruling on the Bakassi peninsula but avoids engaging 
Nigeria directly in order not to be seen as partisan in favor 
of Cameroon. 
¶12. (C) France's relations with Mauritania have improved 
since the 1999 "Ould Dah" affair, concerning the arrest of a 
Mauritanian soldier which led to Nouakchott demanding the 
suspension of French military cooperation.  After the French 
and Mauritanian Foreign Ministers met in Paris in April 2001 
and in Nouakchott in June 2001, the MFA described relations 
as "warming."  Following the June 8, 2003 coup attempt, FM de 
Villepin visited Nouakchott on June 17 to express French 
solidarity with President Taya and to declare relations as 
"excellent."  After another coup attempt, which forced Taya 
to cancel his participation in the commemoration of the 60th 
anniversary of allied landings in France, the MFA stated that 
change should be achieved through the ballot box, and not by 
¶13. (C) While the Presidency, at Taya's request, agreed in 
2003 to treat Mauritania as a Maghreb state, French relations 
with Mauritania continue to be handled at the MFA by the 
Africa directorate.  However, MFA activity in recent years 
has been essentially limited to reacting to the coup attempts 
and Mauritanian accusations of Burkinabe interference.  A 
senior MFA official, in September 2004 told us that the 
Mauritanian claims were hard to believe, ascribing the 
accusations to internal Mauritanian politics. 
¶14. (C) Senegal remains important for France, not only 
politically and economically, but also because France 
maintains approximately 1100 troops in Senegal.  France has 
also provided transportation and other support for Senegalese 
forces participating in the MONUC mission in the DRC.  French 
officials have repeatedly insisted to us that Senegalese 
President Wade's close ties to the United States are welcomed 
in Paris as a sign of Senegal's political maturity.  They 
acknowledge, however, that Wade feels that France is 
punishing him for his tilt to the U.S.  The French see Wade 
as mildly paranoid in this regard, and MFA officials have 
often expressed their frustrations with Wade for his frequent 
absences from Senegal and his tendency to raise a multitude 
of arcane topics with President Chirac during his visits to 
France.  MFA officials have also expressed concern to us 
about Wade's "authoritarian" tendencies, particularly 
following the expulsion of a RFI journalist and the beating 
of an opposition figure in October 2003. 
¶15. (C) After Wade reportedly complained about Chirac's 
decision to visit Mali and Niger without stopping in Dakar in 
November 2003, Chirac promised to visit Senegal, a trip which 
will occur next week.  During his two-day visit, Chirac will 
undoubtedly reiterate French praise for the conclusion of the 
peace accord signed between the GoS and the Casamance rebel 
group, the MFDC, on December 30, 2004 as part of his effort 
to assure Wade that France remains Senegal's most reliable 
partner.  While Cote d'Ivoire will be on the agenda, it is 
unlikely that Chirac will ask Wade to re-engage.  The French 
are currently supporting the mediation efforts of South 
African President Mbeki and, in any event, see Wade as being 
too prone to irritate his regional peers. 
¶16. (C) The lack of French attention to Gambia is perhaps 
demonstrated by the MFA website's reference to President 
Jammeh's 1998 visit to Paris as an indication of French 
support for the democratic process in the Gambia.  France 
maintains a modest assistance program, but no discernible 
political interest. 
¶17. (C) The French Embassy in Bissau was destroyed in May 
1999 by soldiers loyal to Ansumane Mane, causing France to 
withdraw its diplomats and end assistance programs.  With the 
return of civilian administration, France resumed assistance. 
 However, the MFA viewed President Kumba Yala's management of 
the country as "erratic" and expressed no surprise or 
condemnation of the mutiny which ended his rule in September 
¶18. (C) France's relations with Cape Verde are negligible. 
France's junior minister for cooperation visited Praia in 
1997 and Prime Minister Neves visited Paris in November 2003 
when he was received only at the level of the cooperation 
¶19.  (U) Abidjan minimize considered.