Guinea– Côte d’Ivoire– Burkina Faso – Cameroon – Rwanda
Q. – The private residence of the Guinean President, Alpha Condé, was attacked on 19 July. Is this a sign of the new government’s fragility?
THE MINISTER – We firmly condemn this attack. Alpha Condé was democratically elected and must be respected. Soldiers have been arrested… It may be that the necessary reorganization of the army is causing discontent.
Q. – Isn’t the “Condé approach” in question? Some people are talking about power residing in one man…
THE MINISTER – Indeed, that’s what’s being heard. If some people consider the Guinean President’s methods a bit harsh, and if this is the case, it’s for him to take the necessary steps. Alpha Condé must honour his commitments: democracy is about rallying the largest number of people. Although there’s only ever one president, and each exercises power in his own personal way. (…)
COTE D’IVOIRE/FRENCH INTERESTS
Q. – In Côte d’Ivoire, Alassane Ouattara, winner at the ballot box, was installed in power by force of arms and with French support. Isn’t it a handicap to be regarded as France’s man?
THE MINISTER – President Ouattara was installed in power by the majority of Ivorian voters. You mustn’t get things the wrong way round: it was Laurent Gbagbo who didn’t want to recognize the presidential election results. The international community upheld the ballot box verdict.
Q. – With a considerable helping hand from the French army…
THE MINISTER – Licorne had a dual mission: to protect the 14,000 French nationals and support the international community’s efforts, at the express request of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Q. – President Ouattara isn’t indebted [to France]?
THE MINISTER – No. He’s totally free. Observance of the law doesn’t demand anything in return.
Q. – Yet during Prime Minister François Fillon’s visit to Abidjan on 14 and 15 July, there were a lot of company bosses accompanying him…
THE MINISTER – I don’t see why there wouldn’t be. On his investiture in Yamoussoukro, the Ivorian President asked Nicolas Sarkozy to ensure French companies could swiftly resume trading and others could take part in the country’s reconstruction.
Q. – By providing Abidjan with €350 million in direct budgetary aid, to pay civil servants in particular, isn’t France reverting to 1960s and ’70s practices?
THE MINISTER – We want to provide specific help to those countries which are acceding to democracy: Côte d’Ivoire, Niger and Guinea. It’s crystal clear. It’s a financial incentive to promote democracy.
Q. – What’s the state of the talks on the defence agreement between France and Côte d’Ivoire?
THE MINISTER – During his visit to Abidjan in June, the French Defence Minister, Gérard Longuet, handed the Ivorian authorities the working documents that are acting as a basis for discussion. We’re waiting for Abidjan to issue its response.
Q. – Côte d’Ivoire hopes to keep the clause envisaging a graduated response by France in the event of foreign aggression; Paris doesn’t want it any more…
THE MINISTER – The agreement will be very close to what the French Republic wants. Times have changed.
Q. – The possible revision of Article 37 of Burkina Faso’s constitution, to enable Blaise Compaoré to seek a fresh mandate in 2015, is sparking fierce controversy. What’s your opinion?
THE MINISTER – If we have one message to address – bearing in mind that Burkina Faso’s authorities are free – it’s that periods of tension are not the most favourable for proceeding with changes to the constitution. (…)
Q. – Cameroon is heading for a new candidature by Paul Biya in the presidential election due in October. He’s been in power since 1982…
THE MINISTER – It’s the voters who choose. France has no candidates in Cameroon.
Q. – It’ll be difficult to speak in the same terms if Paul Biya pays an official visit to Paris. Are there any plans for such a visit?
THE MINISTER – President Biya will probably have an opportunity to meet Nicolas Sarkozy soon in Paris. But do you think going to shake hands with the French President may be seen as receiving direct support and votes? I don’t think so. Those days are over. (…)
Q. – On 19 July you had a meeting with Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo to prepare the forthcoming visit by the Rwandan Head of State in September. Wasn’t it up to Alain Juppé to do this?
THE MINISTER – I think the Ministre d’Etat was unable to meet her because of his schedule, which is extremely busy at the moment. It was absolutely not an explicit wish on his part not to meet her.
Q. – Can the two countries normalize their relations while Alain Juppé is Foreign Minister (1)?
THE MINISTER – Without forgetting the past, we must obviously find the necessary ways and words to heal wounds and overcome disputes, on both sides. Alain Juppé, as he has said, is acting entirely in line with what President Sarkozy called for during his visit to Kigali in February 2010. (…)./.
(1) France has strongly rejected Rwandan accusations that senior officials including Alain Juppé played a role in the genocide of 1994, when he was also Foreign Minister.