Sarkozy sparks hopes and fears in Africa

8th May 2007, Comments 0 comments

DAKAR, May 7, 2007 (AFP) - The weekend election of right-winger Nicolas Sarkozy as the new president of France has raised fears in Africa because of his tough line on immigration.

DAKAR, May 7, 2007 (AFP) - The weekend election of right-winger Nicolas Sarkozy as the new president of France has raised fears in Africa because of his tough line on immigration.

But some on the continent also hope for a paradigm shift in ties with France's former colonies removed from the so-called "Francafrique" network of past French leaders who maintained relations with some dubious African leaders.

Sarkozy was the architect of France's tough immigration policy and as interior minister stepped up the expulsion of illegal immigrants, prompting sharp criticism from rights groups.

"When we heard the news of Sarkozy's election, we were scared, really scared," said Ousmane Diarra, head a support group for Malians expelled from France.

"This is the guy who, from the very start, has very severe laws on immigration which are detrimental to Malians and West Africans," said Diarra who a year ago launched an anti-Sarkozy campaign in Mali.

Sarkozy, son of a Hungarian aristocrat and the grandson of a Greek Jew, is the first French president of immigrant stock.

An advocate of a system of selective immigration, tailored to the needs of the French labour market, said in his victory speech on Sunday that he plans to head rapidly to Africa to "lay the foundations of a new immigration policy".

The independent daily Le Potentiel in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Monday expressed concern about "Sarkozy's disease which sees Africans only as immigrants disrupting order in France (but) is unaware of what Africa brings to France".

"The election of Sarkozy has not stirred much enthusiasm in Africa," agreed Raddho, a human rights non-governmental organisation based in Dakar.

But for some, the election of a 52-year-old right-wing candidate also raises hope of new relations between France and Africa.

Sarkozy promised an overhaul of relations with France's former African colonies, tacitly criticising his predecessor's Jacques Chirac's "personal" ties with the leaders of questionable regimes.

"We count on him for the modernisation of relations between France and  African countries," said Ivory Coast's opposition leader and former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara, Sarkozy's close ally.

Jean-Pierre Bemba, DRC's opposition leader and ex-vice president said he was delighted by Sarkozy's victory, which he said "heralds ... a rupture of a policy, France's policy on Africa, towards more democracy and good governance."

Nord-Sud, a newspaper close to Ivory Coast's opposition and new transitional prime minister Guillaume Soro, wants to believe that the support of France's "friends and buddies will no longer be systematic."

During a trip to Benin last year as interior minister, Sarkozy said France wanted "to build new relations" with Africa, and be "rid of scum of the past".

In South Africa, meanwhile, President Thabo Mbeki expressed hope that France would be a force for good in Africa.

"Given its historical links with the African continent, France will always be a valued interlocutor and partner in our efforts to build peace and stability, strengthen democratic governance and foster social and economic development in Africa," he said.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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