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French policy on Africa

Published on January 13, 2014
Interview given by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs, to the daily newspaper Les Echos

Paris, January 10, 2014

Q. – On 11 January 2013, France intervened in Mali. What assessment can be made of it?

THE MINISTER – The terrorists were 200 kilometres from Bamako, about to take control of the whole country. One year on, terrorism there has essentially been eradicated and security largely restored. Legitimate elections have been held. And €3.5 billion in development aid has been raised, €800 million of which has been actually and transparently committed. The Malian army is being rebuilt with the European Union’s support. Talks with the north are getting under way. Of course, a great deal remains to be done, under the leadership of the new Malian authorities, but the progress is internationally recognized as outstanding. And now, just as we committed ourselves there, so we’re significantly reducing our military presence, which has been worthy of praise.

Q. – By contrast, in the Central African Republic the situation is very difficult…

THE MINISTER – In the CAR it wasn’t about terrorism but about a people tearing itself apart and foundering. The question that arose was the following: when, last December, the United Nations Security Council – unanimously – and the Africans asked France to come to the aid of a friendly country, must we answer: “It’s not our business”? That’s not what France is about! So we intervened by deploying 1,600 soldiers in support of the African contingents of MISCA [AFISM-CAR], which will soon number 6,000. The mission isn’t easy, because you simultaneously have to help disarm impartially, develop humanitarian aid and support the democratic transition in an unstable political situation. But it’s a necessary mission. And we’d like Europe, too, to be very active.

Q. – What is France’s interest?

THE MINISTER – There’s no economic or financial interest in the strict sense, but France is one of the five permanent members of the Security Council; it has principles, its influence in Africa and its international responsibilities. When you’re a world power, you can’t go on your way, avert your eyes and let a friendly country self-destruct.

Q. – Why must France keep troops in Africa?

THE MINISTER – It’s for the Africans to ensure their own security, but the African countries aren’t all in a position to do so, and today there’s no inter-African force capable of a rapid response to crises: so France is helping the Africans and supporting the African Union’s plan to develop this inter-African force by 2015. It will be necessary, to make Africa and therefore also Europe secure, because our destinies are linked.

Development and security go together. Standing alongside the Africans and not usurping their role: that’s the thrust of our partnership with that continent of the future./.

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