Saturday, March 01, 2008

France, Africa reestablish defense relationship

Source: Sarkozy seeks new Africa defence ties

France intends to renegotiate all defense agreements with its former colonies in Africa, signaling that President Sarkozy intends to make good on his promise to transform his country’s attitude towards the African continent. France has maintained military bases in several countries in west and central Africa since the early 1960s, frequently intervening in African politics in support of autocratic leaders with which France had close ties. However, in an address to South Africa’s parliament in Cape Town, Sarkozy indicated that such agreements are “obsolete,” and that new agreements must reflect “Africa as it is today, and not as it was yesterday.”

Currently, the details of the replacement agreements are unknown. French officials indicate that the two countries will negotiate the new agreements in the next few months. It is expected that one of the new emphases for the French military in Africa will be on training missions. France has an estimated 26 military accords with its former African colonies. These accords allow for varying levels of involvement, ranging from complete military intervention to cooperation on training and arms sales. Currently, France has 9,000 troops deployed in five countries, with three permanent bases in Senegal, Gabon, and Djibouti. It is expected that the biggest changes will be in the Ivory Coast, where approximately 2,400 peacekeeping soldiers are stationed.

Questions for Discussion
1. Critics of Sarkozy suggest that whereas this action seems consistent with his promise to break the tradition of post-colonial policies towards Africa that real change is slow to materialize. Is this a fair critique?

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