Official speeches and statements - August 2, 2016
1. Africa - Kenya - Somalia - Burundi - South Sudan - Interview given by M. Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, to the newspaper Le Monde Afrique (Paris, 08/02/2016)
Q. - Trade is increasing between France and East Africa. Is Paris distancing itself from what could be considered its «private domain»?
THE MINISTER - There’s no private domain. For us, Africa is a whole. There isn’t just West Africa, the Sahel and French-speaking Africa; there’s East Africa too, which is booming economically. Admittedly we’ve taken less of an interest in it traditionally; just think: this is the first visit to Kenya by a French foreign minister in 15 years!
This part of Africa has huge potential, which must be supported. I’ll also soon be going to Ethiopia. More generally, I’m doing my utmost to make my European colleagues more aware of Africa’s importance and potential. At the last NATO summit, at the beginning of July, I was very pleased to hear Chancellor Angela Merkel calling for our strategic approach vis-à-vis the continent to be better coordinated.
KENYA-FRANCE RELATIONS/DADAAB REFUGEE CAMP
Q. - In an article published in the Kenyan daily newspaper The Star, you welcome the fact that investment and trade between Kenya and France grew by a quarter between 2014 and 2015. With East Africa, is it more a business relationship and less a political one?
THE MINISTER - No, it’s both. During this visit, we’ll be talking about the common fight against terrorism and the various regional conflicts.
In our view, Kenya is an excellent example of this dynamic Africa experiencing an economic boom. It’s a country which is leading the way on the continent, with a great capacity for innovation and investment, a notable share of renewable energies in the energy mix and a democracy which is being strengthened, and it has taken a genuine technological leap forward, through, for example, the rapid growth of mobile banking.
Q. - Yet Kenya continues to make it clear that it wishes to close the Dadaab refugee camp - the largest in the world - despite the protests of humanitarian players... What is France’s position on this?
THE MINISTER - We respect Kenya’s decision, but would like all this to happen in close coordination with the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees and with due regard for international treaties. Otherwise there’s a risk of chaos and violence.
Q. - In Somalia, several countries have announced the withdrawal of their troops from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). NGOs recently denounced the deaths of 14 Somalian villagers who were killed by Ethiopian troops. Should the European Union and France revise their support for AMISOM?
THE MINISTER - We support the African Union, and the Shebabs can’t be allowed to destabilize the country. But we remain vigilant: protecting civilians is crucial in peacekeeping operations. On 10 June, I chaired a meeting of the [United Nations] Security Council on the subject. France has experience to contribute because of its commitment in the peacekeeping field, particularly in Africa. We mustn’t turn a blind eye to possible acts of violence.
Q. - Last week the Security Council adopted a resolution, proposed by France, allowing 228 police officers to be dispatched to Burundi. Is that really enough?
THE MINISTER - The resolution was adopted after France did a huge amount of work talking to all the members of the Security Council and the Burundian authorities. Two hundred and twenty-eight police officers certainly isn’t a lot. It’s an observer force, not a military intervention. But already a sign and a message are being sent to provide guarantees and thus ease tensions. It shows that the international community isn’t turning a blind eye to the situation in Burundi.
Q. - In South Sudan, the UN force, UNMISS, appears completely overtaken by events. Does this worry you?
THE MINISTER - It’s a very complicated issue. The agreements signed between the opposition and those in power weren’t respected. Consequently, the country is today on the brink of the abyss.
At any rate, the international community mustn’t be indifferent to any conflict in Africa. I attach great importance to the crucial role the African Union and neighbours of countries in conflict play, such as Kenya, in resolving these tensions. Africans must solve their own problems, with our support.
Q. - Will François Hollande be going to East Africa as well?
THE MINISTER - The President has already been to Ethiopia. When I talked to him about my trip to Kenya and Tanzania, I saw the great interest he takes in the region. I’m sure he’ll seize every opportunity to return.
I applaud the UN Security Council’s adoption of Resolution 2303 on Burundi. France had been engaged in intense negotiations for months to achieve this result.
This resolution authorizes the deployment of 228 UN police officers with a mandate to monitor and report on the security situation and human rights violations in Burundi. The Security Council could be called upon on an emergency basis should the situation deteriorate.
The Security Council has assumed its responsibilities. The UN can conduct actions to prevent and ease tensions on the ground.
France believes that this situation must continue to be followed closely.
I will travel to the region early next week, to Kenya and Tanzania where, among others, I will meet former President Mkapa, the Burundi crisis mediator, to express to him my support.