During the campaign he called for a “healthier relationship” with Africa. The message was reaffirmed during Mr Sarkozy’s first presidential trip to the continent in July – when he called for a new “partnership between equal nations” – and again during the current UN General Assembly in New York.
In the clearest indication yet that Paris’s Africa policy was no longer focused on its French-speaking backyard, Mr Sarkozy chaired a Security Council meeting on African crises, and presented plans for international humanitarian intervention in Darfur and Somalia.
Putting aside old rivalries, he also said that it was “good news” that other major powers, such the US and China, also took an interest in Africa.
This suggest a sharp contrast with France’s traditional policy in Africa, which was deeply defensive and aimed at preserving a sphere of influence on a continent which former French Foreign Minister Jean Sauvagnargues called “the only place in the world where France can single-handedly influence policy”.
This policy – derogatively called “Francafrique” and epitomised by Mr Sarkozy’s immediate predecessors Francois Mitterrand and Jacques Chirac – was in many ways an extension of colonial rule.
For a more in-depth looks at this issue, see this WPR commentary by Michelle Sieff two days prior:
During the presidential campaign, Sarkozy pledged a “rupture” with ” la Francafrique” — the basis of France’s traditional relations with Africa, marked by personal ties with the ruling, corrupt elites of its former colonies. At the end of July, Sarkozy made his first trip to sub-Saharan Africa as president and stopped in Senegal and Gabon.
Sarkozy elaborated his vision for Africa in a speech to students at the elite Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar. The speech was long — 45 minutes — and affected a pedagogical tone, with Sarkozy repeatedly chanting the phrase “I am not here to” do this or that, followed by incantations of “I am here to” do so and so. It was replete with philosophical ideas, history lessons, and literary allusions.