France/Africa – Africa/democracy – Mali
THE PRESIDENT – Ladies and gentlemen, this morning I welcomed President Thomas Boni Yayi, who is both the President of Benin – a country France has friendly relations with – and the Chairperson of the African Union. He’s the first African head of state I’ve welcomed here at the Elysée Palace since my election.
It’s symbolic, symbolic on two counts – firstly in recognizing Beninese democracy, which is exemplary on the African continent, and also symbolic of the esteem I have for the African Union.
The three guiding principles of my relationship with Africa are as follows.
First of all, the principle of good governance – that is, the development of democracy throughout Africa, with the necessary conditions of pluralism and fighting corruption.
The second principle – and I agree with what the Beninese President himself also proposes – a growth and development pact for the African continent which must enable it to experience not only rapid economic activity, as is the case today, but also full development. And also recognition of the continent in the international bodies which until today haven’t made enough room for it, and I’m thinking in particular of the G20.
Finally, the stability of the African continent, its security. We’re confronted with several major conflicts that may have consequences for Africa but also for the whole world. My concerns were raised about the situation in the Sahel, and we exchanged information and also our views on what full security for the Sahel regon should mean. Today, it’s Mali that is afflicted, and Mali must restore her constitutional order, her territorial integrity and peace, and there too we’ll have to act together.
Those are the three principles I wanted to identify during my meeting with the African Union Chairperson: the principle of good governance, the principle of economic development and the principle of stability and security.
Finally, the Beninese President and I had the opportunity to discuss the strong relationship between our two countries. In the next few weeks, we’ll have to work on the necessary agreement between our two countries with a view to their respective development.
Anyway, thank you for this visit, which was one of warmth, the warmth of personal relations, of friendship and also of the recognition I wanted to give the African Union. (…)
Q. – In La Baule [Franco-African summit in 1990], France made her aid subordinate to the establishment of democracy on the African continent. You’ve talked about the exemplary nature of Beninese democracy. How does France intend to consolidate that democracy at the economic level? How does France intend to help resolve the crises on the continent, particularly the Malian crisis, which risks destabilizing the whole of West Africa?
THE PRESIDENT – For us, democracy is one of the very conditions of our solidarity. In other words, we don’t want to impose anything but we believe that wherever we’re present in the framework of agreements, the principles of pluralism and respect for freedoms must be clearly set out. That’s why I entirely shared the statement by the African Union Chairperson, who advocates its rules of governance and democracy as priority rules for the African continent’s development.
He talked about writing a page; yes, we’re going to write it together, so that the relationship between France and Africa, building on its history, can continue in the coming years on the basis of the principles we must have of respect, solidarity and at the same time being demanding, without interference in the states concerned.
On the second subject, you’re right to emphasize it: it was at the centre of our discussions. We hope that, on the basis of the principles set out – again, the restoration of constitutional order for Mali, territorial integrity and fighting terrorism – there can be efforts conducted by the Africans themselves and first of all the regional organizations, be they ECOWAS [Economic Community of West African States] or the African Union. We’d like the institutions to refer the matter to the Security Council and the Security Council to define a framework enabling Mali and, more broadly, the Sahel region to regain stability.
Q. – On Mali, does France intend to contribute to a peacekeeping force in that country? (…)
THE PRESIDENT – (…) We respect any decisions the Security Council takes, if the matter is referred to it by the institutions I was talking about or by Mali herself, if she regains her constitutional order. As you know, we welcomed the interim President, who was attacked in his own country and is in hospital here. There’s a Prime Minister, but there’s also a rebellion under way, which must stop.
So we’re asking the institutions with responsibility for this, ECOWAS – I talked to Chairman Ouattara this morning – and the African Union, to refer the matter to the Security Council when they believe the time is right: in my eyes, the sooner the better. France will have to consider participation in the framework of the Security Council’s decisions, but it’ll be requested by the bodies I’ve spoken about: the Security Council, the African Union and ECOWAS. We don’t want to get into a process of interference, but at the same time, we’re aware of the collective responsibility we Europeans and Africans have. Let me remind you we have hostages being held over there. (…)./.