Visit to Côte d’Ivoire
COTE D’IVOIRE/RECENT EVENTS
THE PRIME MINISTER – I’d like to tell you how very honoured I feel to be standing alongside you, in the wake of events which were tragic for Côte d’Ivoire and which you went through with a courage, a dignity and a determination that inspired admiration among all French people but also admiration, I’m sure, throughout the world.
It’s a great joy to be in Abidjan for what is the first visit by a French head of government for a quarter of a century, because the last visit dates back to 1986.
And I think we can say that in 1986 it was another Côte d’Ivoire and it was another France.
Today, our two countries are forging a relationship of renewed trust, but a relationship based on a very longstanding friendship and on demonstrations of friendship we have given each other, particularly in recent months. (…)
There was a presidential election in Côte d’Ivoire, which took time anyway. You won that presidential election. There was no reason why President Ouattara, elected by the Ivorians, shouldn’t take charge of Côte d’Ivoire’s destiny, and we saw the misfortunes caused by the obstinacy of a clan that didn’t want to respect the law or democracy.
And France watched all this and felt, ultimately, that not only was Côte d’Ivoire’s future being played out in Côte d’Ivoire but also, in a sense, Africa’s future, because the notion that democracy, human rights and the rule of law are not reserved for the few was being demonstrated in a very concrete way in Côte d’Ivoire. So we made every effort, with the United Nations, with strict respect for international law, to ensure that democracy and respect for the law would triumph in Côte d’Ivoire. And that’s what President Sarkozy came to say during his visit on 21 May.
But now, together, we must undertake to strengthen economic, political and diplomatic relations, to ensure that Côte d’Ivoire succeeds and that the commitments we made are met. That’s what I tried to say throughout the meetings we had together, Mr President.
First of all, in terms of defence, we’ll stick to the commitments President Sarkozy made to you. We’re going to negotiate a defence agreement together. The Defence Minister, Gérard Longuet, came here a few days ago to prepare it. It will be a defence agreement that takes into account all your considerations and those of French security policy in Africa. France will remain firm with regard to security, alongside Côte d’Ivoire.
There are also the most important commitments: those which will enable Côte d’Ivoire to resume growth. I told you the commitment we made, of €400 million in budgetary support, would be met; €350 million has already been allocated. We discussed the remaining €50 million. We’re going to resolve this issue in accordance with your wishes, as soon as possible. Likewise, we’re going to undertake a very major effort – ultimately unprecedented, by the way – of debt reduction and development, with the Debt Reduction and Development Contract. We’re going to negotiate this contract, to the tune of €2 billion, together, and to this end we’re going to reinstate the Joint Franco-Ivorian Commission. And I told you we’d decided to add unconditionally to this contract, to these measures, €1 billion of debt cancellation by France. Likewise, France will work with Côte d’Ivoire’s other creditors to ensure they take similar decisions.
Finally, I’ve come here with a very large delegation of business leaders, to enable French companies to resume cooperation with Côte d’Ivoire, to enable French companies to invest in Côte d’Ivoire. There are huge needs in terms of infrastructures; there are French firms with expertise. Of course they must be the best among the competition, and the competition is open. Since I’ve been in Côte d’Ivoire I’ve already had the opportunity to say twice that France doesn’t want to be the exclusive partner of Côte d’Ivoire. That was the case in another era. (…)
Beyond the personal admiration I have for you, beyond the friendship President Sarkozy has for you, we have great confidence in Côte d’Ivoire’s future and the future of relations between France and Côte d’Ivoire. (…)
Q. – This morning, certain Ivorian papers have protested against what they call “the return of the colonist”. How do you respond to those Ivorians who regard France in this way? (…)
THE PRIME MINISTER – These accusations and criticisms reflect outmoded mindsets. And I urge all those who wish to continue speaking about relations between France and Africa in terms of “Françafrique” (1) to change their vocabulary and mindset. None of that has anything to do with to the reality of relations between our two countries any more.
What we want is to help Côte d’Ivoire achieve full sovereignty. What we want, in the framework of international law, is to ensure that democracy and human rights are better and better respected on the African continent. And let me remind you that we acted here in Côte d’Ivoire only in the framework of the mandate we were given by the United Nations, just as we’re acting in Libya today only in the framework of the mandate we were given by the United Nations. (…)
FRENCH MILITARY PRESENCE
Q. – During your discussions, you mentioned the forthcoming redefinition of the defence agreements between Côte d’Ivoire and France. Can you give us an idea of the broad lines of this coming change?
THE PRIME MINISTER – I can simply add, from France’s viewpoint – and this is a new reply to the previous question – that it’s not our role to guarantee Côte d’Ivoire’s security, any more than that of any other country in the world. Neither is it our role, nor do we have the resources, moreover. On the other hand, we want to shoulder all our international responsibilities; we want to help our friends; we want to help them, in particular, to guarantee their own security in the face of terrorist threats and all kinds of trafficking, which, as we know, are growing in importance in the world and threatening the rule of law. If the Ivorian government so wishes, we’ll maintain a military presence in Côte d’Ivoire. President Sarkozy also mentioned the size of this military force. In the framework of this defence agreement, we want to give the Ivorian forces all our backing in terms of training and support, but French forces’ role and commitment doctrine will lead us to reduce our military presence in Côte d’Ivoire – as in the rest of the world, moreover – by emphasizing support, training and also the deployment capabilities we possess when they’re sought in the context of international law. (…)./.
(1) France’s former, somewhat proprietorial Africa policy, often based on personal relationships