• Karl Sörenson

Publish date: 2008-08-26

Report number: FOI-R--2553--SE

Pages: 76

Written in: Swedish


  • France
  • Africa
  • colonisation
  • Algerian
  • war
  • military interventions
  • defence agreements
  • Francafrique
  • Sarkozy
  • EU-Presidency
  • Frankrike
  • Afrika
  • kolonisation
  • Algeriet kriget
  • militära interventioner
  • försvarstal
  • EU-ordförandeskap


This report analyses the French-African relationship from a security and defence political point of view. The report focuses on whether French President Sarkozy´s proposed "rupture" (break) with past French African politics is credible given France´s past politics in Africa. To understand this historical relationship the report identifies four historical phases in the French-African relationship; the French Impire, the French Union, the short lived French Community and today´s network structure which encompasses French and African political leaders, civil-cervants, officers, and businessmen. The Imperial period established French rule in the North, West and Central Africa and laid the ground for French-African trade relations as well as introducing French culture in Africa. The French-African relationship was in part strengthened by the African suppport to France during the Second World War, which left France with a historical debt to Africa. The Union primarily tried to bridge the post-war call for greater autonomy from the African states while safeguarding French supremacy. The French Community dissolved after only two years, was the last attempt by France to formally keep the colonial connection. After the end of the Community, President de Gaulle was quick to establish a close relationship with most of the Francophone political leaders. The network instigated by de Gaulle was trengthened through education and common socialisation between the elites of metropolitan France and those of the Francophone African states. Subsequent French presidents upheld the network structure that came to dominate the French-African relationship and France continued its precence in Africa. The network structure was upheld by political liaisons and trade, but also by France acting as a guarantor for African stability by bilateral defence agreements and through military interventions. The intervenstions became increasingly difficult to motivate and eventually necessitated serious reforms in French-Africa politics. Sarkozy´s attempt rearrange the current French Africa policy is situated within the historical context. So far Sarkozy seems to envisage a more loosely coupled network between France and African leaders, but which encompasses non-traditional French African partners like Libya and South Africa. This more multilateral approach is also reflected in France´s attempt to move away from the bilateral dealings of the past to work closer together with the EU, AU and the UN in Africa. However, the new multilateral transition might be complicated by the earlier, often complex French-African relationship.