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Dakar Democratic Republic of Congo Diplomacy DRC France Fran├žois Hollande French press review

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French press review 12 October 2012

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President François Hollande’s first visit to Africa this Friday attracts a variety of comments from the national and regional dailies.


As the French leader flies to Senegal en route to the Francophonie summit in the DRC capital Kinshasa, Le Monde underlines President Hollande’s offer of a lucid, transparent and respectful relationship with Africa.

He is not acquainted with the region, writes the evening newspaper, which is why it predicts that his words will be dissected, the African heads of state present in Kinshasa anxious to see how different his policy towards Africa will be in the light of the historical ties linking France to the continent.

“How can we repair relations vitiated by long-standing economic and geostrategic interests?” wonders northern regional daily La Voix du Nord. According to the paper, the thorny issue facing Hollande will be erasing Nicolas Sarkozy’s neo-colonialist and patronising speech delivered in Dakar five years ago.

The regional newspaper believes there is an urgent need for renewal especially at this time when France aspires to lie low as the international community considers a military operation to flush out pro-Al Qaeda Islamists in Mali.

La Voix du Nord welcomes the president's decision to scrap the controversial ministry of cooperation and to replace it with a development portfolio. The paper says it can’t imagine ecologist Pascal Canfin, who heads the ministry, reactivating the parallel networks and soldiers of fortune who turned Africa into a favourite hunting ground for French interests.

France again finds itself at the crossroads, comments La Presse de la Manche
in today’s editorial, torn between the ideals inherited from the revolution and the urgency of opting for peaceful and intelligent management of foreign policy realities.

For La Presse de la Manche, Hollande’s own Dakar address will have to sweep away Sarkozy’s assertion that “Africans have not made their mark in global history". Most Africans felt deeply humiliated by those remarks, according to the newspaper..

La Nouvelle République du Centre isn’t sure Hollande’s decision to travel to Kinshasa was the right decision. According to the paper, he is fully aware of the attention his presence at the Francophonie summit will receive. For the Manche newspaper the Malian crisis remains the most crucial issue in Africa.

La Nouvelle République however welcomes Hollande’s reiteration of his opposition to any dialogue with Al Qaeda in the Maghreb, who are holding French hostages in Niger. It is the right position to take at a time of UN procrastination.

La Nouvelle République doesn’t believe the controversy caused by Sarkozy’s 2007 Dakar speech will ever be dissipated. This is not time for more controversy says the paper. The best response is Hollande’s planned visit to Gorée, the slave Island off the coast of Dakar where serious mistakes, which have to be remembered, were made.

The new French president’s response to Sarkozy’s Africa blunder will be typical Hollande writes La Montagne. His big argument, according to the paper, is that his business in Kinshasa is the Francophonie summit not an official visit. Hollande could also demonstrate he is not following in the footsteps of his predecessor as he opted for hotel diplomacy and decided not to spend the night in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

La Montagne notes that Hollande prefers to be associated with Senegal, where he is stopping over Friday en route to the DRC. The paper points out with an element of sarcasm that Senegal is the only French-speaking African country which has never experienced a coup d’état and where there has always been a peaceful political transition.

It will be a great opportunity for him to contradict his predecessor and say that Africans carved their place in history earlier than France did. He will also underline Africa’s importance on the energy market and in the world economy, points Sarkozy forgot to raise in his unfortunate address which is now widely described as “a moral and ethical blunder”.