France Foreign Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, has warned that the country’s day of meddling in African countries’ politics were over. Ayrault said this on Friday in Paris, as Gabon its former colony counted the cost of riots that followed a disputed election.
“We are Africa’s partners but we do not want in any case to intervene in countries’ internal affairs. That would be disrespectful of Africans, they don’t ask for it. “France acts only when countries requested Paris’ help,” he said.
Alain-Claude Nze, Gabonese Government Spokesman, told French television that the government expected France to help ease tensions and bring both sides to a peaceful resolution. Bongo’s allies also expressed anger over a French Socialist Party statement declaring that early results showed challenger Jean Ping to be the winner.
They accused it of failing to respect the sovereignty of a country where 14,000 French citizens live, and which hosts a French military base with 450 troops. They said it harked back to the era of La Francafrique, when Paris played puppet-master in African countries decades after post-colonial independence, propping up leaders like Bongo’s father in exchange for pushing business to French firms.
Critics noted that there are recent precedents of France becoming involved in African countries such as in the Ivory Coast in 2011. They recalled that after Ivory Coast’s former President Laurent Bagbo, refused to step down following a disputed election, France went to the United Nation’s Security Council to get a mandate to send troops and help swing a civil war in favour of Bagbo’s rival Alassane Outtara.
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