Africa: Guebuza to Focus On Poverty in France/Africa Summit

Photo: French Foreign Ministry
President Nicolas Sarkozy of France with Niger's president Mamadou Tandja (file photo): Tandja was invited to the summit after the military promised to restore civilian rule.

Maputo — Mozambican President Armando Guebuza, who arrived on Sunday in the southern French city of Nice, to take part in the France-Africa summit, has said that this is an opportunity for Mozambique to present the country's concerns, particularly about the fight against poverty.

"I hope we will be able to present our concerns and that France will have the same interest", Guebuza declared, shortly after his arrival.

The opening session of the summit, on Monday, is on the theme "The Place of Africa in World Governance", but the event will also debate other themes, such as "Together Strengthening Peace and Security", and "Climate and Development".

Guebuza's agenda includes a meeting with the French business community, on Monday, and with his host, French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The summit coincides with the celebration of 50 years of the independence of several African countries from colonial rule, in 1960. Between January and December 1960, 17 African countries, mostly former French colonies, became independent. These include Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Ivory Coast, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Central African Republic, Gabon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Senegal and Togo.

It is hoped that the Nice summit will produce concrete results. It is thus expected that it will launch a private sector investment fund for agriculture in Africa, adopt a charter for French companies operating in Africa, and create a consortium for "Africasol", a programme to produce electricity from solar energy.

The summit agenda also includes a workshop on the role of the immigrants, whose remittances represent between 3.2 and 22 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product of their countries of origin.

French government statistics show that trade between France and Africa amounted to about 21 billion Euros (26 billion US dollars) in 2006. Mozambique is a modest trading partner of France, occupying the 142nd position in the list of French trading partners in 2007. From Mozambique, France imports mainly aluminium ingots, sugar and prawns.

Among other African leaders expected to attend are the Presidents Jacob Zuma of South Africa, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria, and Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia.

Most leaders of the former French colonies in west and central Africa are attending, with the notable exception of the President of Ivory Coast, Laurent Gbagbo, whose relations with France went into the deep freeze after the attempted coup of 2002, which Gbagbo blamed on the then French President, Jacques Chirac.

"There is no reason for me to go to France, as we have not discussed our fundamental disagreement", Gbagbo told the French radio station, RFI. Since 2002, Gbagbo has consistently shunned the France-African summits.

Other leaders will not be there because they have not been invited - notably the Sudanese president, and indicted war criminal, Omar al-Bashir. Indeed, Bashir is the reason why the summit is being held in Nice, rather than in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

The Egyptian government insisted that it would invite Bashir, despite the warrant for his arrest issued by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes committed in the western Sudanese region of Darfur. That would have been highly embarrassing, and so the summit venue was changed to Nice.

Even if Bashir himself cannot attend (since he would be arrested the moment he set foot on French soil), there is some speculation in Nice that a high level Sudanese delegation will be present.

Another leader who will not be there is octogenarian Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, who cannot set foot in France, due to the European Union travel sanctions against him and other key members of his party, ZANU-PF. No member of the Zimbabwean government is expected to attend.

There was also no invitation for Madagascan coup leader, Andry Rajoelina, who seized power in March 2009. The negotiations over the future of Madagascar are at an impasse, since Rajoelina has reneged on the agreements he signed last year in Maputo and in Addis Ababa.

But the French hosts have not been consistent about excluding coup leaders. They have invited Salou Djibo, the leader of the military junta that overthrew the President of Niger, Mamadu Tandja in February. The French government justifies this decision on the grounds that Djibo has promised to return power to a civilian government within 12 months.

Likewise the interim leader of the military junta in Guinea-Conakry, Gen Sekouba Konate, will be at the summit, after promising to hold elections next month.

Last week, French Cooperation Minister Alain Joyandet, defended the guest list. He said it did not contradict African Union policy of no recognition for leaders who take power by force, since both men were taking measures to ensure free and transparent elections.

Other leaders not expected to attend, for reasons AIM has not yet ascertained, include Muammar Gaddaffi of Libya, Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Jose Eduardo dos Santos of Angola.

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InFocus

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President Nicolas Sarkozy of France with Niger's president Mamadou Tandja (file photo): Tandja was invited to the summit after the military promised to restore civilian rule.

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