Alexa
  • Directory of Taiwan

France's president announces "major turning point" in defense relations with Africa

France's president announces "major turning point" in defense relations with Africa

French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced a major overhaul of his nation's policies toward Africa Thursday, saying that its military agreements were outdated and it had no interest in keeping its forces permanently on the continent.
Sarkozy told the South African parliament that he would re-negotiate all defense agreements dating to the end of the colonial era in the 1960s. France is often accused of propping up African dictators and ignoring cronyism and corruption. In future, relations would be more open and transparent, Sarkozy said.
"Defense agreements must reflect the Africa of today and not yesterday," he said, describing many of the existing contracts as "obsolete."
"We are now in 21st century as opposed to 20th century."
"It is unthinkable that the French army should be drawn into domestic conflicts," Sarkozy said. He said the new policy marked a "major turning point" for the former colonial master.
France has thousands of troops at four military bases in Africa, the largest at Djibouti in the Horn of Africa. The other bases are at Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean and in Senegal and Gabon in West Africa. France has also troops in Ivory Coast, Chad and Central African Republic.
Sarkozy did not say whether any of the bases will be closed, although French media have speculated that this may happen.
Sarkozy arrived in South Africa after a brief stopover in Chad, an oil-rich, coup-prone former French colony that has been beset by low-level insurgencies for nearly a decade, and never known real democracy.
When rebels besieged Chad's capital earlier this month, French forces helped evacuate foreigners and gave logistical support to the government, including transporting munitions from Libya.
Sarkozy emphasized that he did not authorize French troops to get involved in the fighting or shoot any Africans. He said the hands-off approach was "unprecedented" and indicative of France's future policy.
In addition, France is playing a key role in a planned 3,700-strong peacekeeping force, known as EUFOR to protect refugees from Darfur and others caught up in the turmoil along Sudan's borders with Chad and the Central African Republic.
Sarkozy said that in future France also wanted to pay greater attention to human rights and democracy, describing delays in free and fair elections in Ivory Coast and Chad as "unacceptable." The same applied to Zimbabwe, he said.
France's relationship with leaders in its former colonies has benefited both sides, with France receiving support at the United Nations from African regimes and access to the continent's natural resources. African leaders in turn have reaped aid and some might not have survived without French military backing.
Sarkozy, who was elected in May, has insisted that he wants a "healthier relationship" with Africa.
"Africa must take on its own security issues and problems," he said. Policing was a role for the African Union and regional African organizations, and France would help those organization play a more active decisive role in peacekeeping, the French leader said.
His visit to South Africa, never a French colony, may provide a model for the new African relationships Sarkozy seeks. Sarkozy and his new wife Carla Bruni were greeted upon arrival in South Africa Thursday by President Thabo Mbeki for talks likely to include the bid by French company AREVA to build South Africa's second nuclear reactor.
Throughout his speech to parliament, Sarkozy referred to "my dear Thabo," and stressed the strength of ties and depth of consensus between the two countries.
Sarkozy is accompanied by 40 French business leaders including chief executive officer Ann Lauvergeon of AREVA, which built South Africa's Koeberg nuclear power plant.
South Africa is suffering from energy shortages that have badly hurt its mining sector, and sees the expansion of its nuclear energy program as the way to solve the crisis in the long term.
South Africa's foreign ministry said the talks also would aim to boost French investment in the areas of transport, energy, automotive and aeronautics.


Updated : 2021-05-08 01:44 GMT+08:00