Republic of the Congo President Denis Sassou Nguesso visits Paris

The President visited Paris, for work, between the 15th and 21st of January. During his stay in Paris, he was received by Francois Hollande for over an hour. For this second meeting between the two heads of state, almost all of the standard protocols were flawlessly respected. The red carpet was unrolled, they shared a frank handshake, had a sincere accolade and posed for an official photo. That’s what happened in the court. In the backyard, since their face-to-face last year, the situation has completely changed. The two Presidents spoke about the bilateral cooperation between France and Congo. They also evoked the maintaining of the peace in the Central African Republic (CAR). France has deployed 1600 men to Bangui for the Sangaris operation. Let us remind you that Denis S.N. is the mediator of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and he has also sent Congolese troops who participate next to other African countries to ensure peace in the CAR. When the audience exited, DSN confirmed that the military personnel in the CAR is increasing in power, from 3000 at the beginning up to 6000 with the arrival of Rwandan troops, some of which are already in Bangui.

“Today, we believe that the forces of Sangaris are progressively handling the situation in Bangui and measures will be taken to avoid any catastrophes, this includes political, humanitarian and security catastrophes. You know that next March, the African forces in Central African will have been there for a year. They have doing the work and there has been a rise in power. With the arrival of troops from Rwanda and the Republic of Congo, we will reach 6000 men in the CAR. Because, it must be said that the operation in the CAR is mainly an African Union operation.” – Denis Sassou Nguesso

Remember that one year ago, Francois Hollande began the Operation Serval in Mali. Since then, another operation in Central Africa, launched a month ago, confirms that France remains on the first line in its African “pré carré” (I couldn’t find an exact word but it means “a state’s or a business’s exclusive zone of influence”). The least we can say is that France has done its part in military interventions in Africa in a little more than 50 years since the independences. If we were to decipher this, we are allowed to say that in reality, there were different strategies that all shared a common background: the particular link between France and its old colonies forged by 4 successive ages. A first period, during which Jacques Foccart, the first “Mister Francafrica”,  is the dominant figure. From 1960 to 1974, he organized the bilateral relations with the states that formed due to the decolonization. Then the secret accords of defense, those of military cooperation and French bases were established. On one hand, the logic has to do with dissuasion of the military pre-positioning, on the other hand it has to do with the protection of France’s friends. In 1964, in Libreville, Gabon, Paris used punch actions to neutralize a putsch against the President Leon M’ba. Then, France led its first mid-length intervention between 1968 and 1972 with the Limousin Operation in Chad. With the Giscardienne presidency, Africa affirms itself as the theatre of war for East-West confrontations. More powerful operations also appeared between 1977 and 1980. For example when jaguar-planes were used in Mauritania in 1977 and in Chad the following year. The Legion’s jump on Kolwezi in 1978 or the turn-over of Bokassa in 1979. France has about 5000 men permanently stationed in Africa: 2000 in Djibouti, 950 in Libreville in Gabon, 950 in N’Djamena in Chad, 450 in Abidjan in the Ivory Coast, 350 in Dakar in Senegal, 2500 soldiers are always present in Mali, 1600 in Central Africa. Yesterday was war, today France is battling terrorism. Between the Chirac presidency and the Jospinienne reform, exists a third period during which France is increasingly looking to harmonize interventions with a validation from the UN.

“An operation that will be quick, an operation that will be effective, but one that will have to go through all the steps with the Africans. Remove weapons from the groups that possess them, regain stability and eventually allow free and pluralist elections in this country” – Francois Hollande.

Finally, after September 11th and the Obama doctrine in 2010, Africa became the designated country for France’s protection within the distribution of duties between big global powers. For a long time, the Francophone family has worked under the domination of a guardian figure. However, France has powerful regional allies at its disposition. Its strategic role in the war in Sahel, like its political influence in Central Africa, are reinforced.

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