La France-Afrique encore? Fillon pays a visit to Côte d’Ivoire

French PM Francois Fillon paid a visit to a post-Gbagbo Côte d’Ivoire, his first visit after thousands were left dead in the wake of a five-month civil war. Gbagbo and new President Alassane Ouattara were locked in a bitter struggle after Gbagbo refused to step down following last November’s election–a struggle that ended when French troops arrested Gbagbo in April.

Voices of America reports that while Fillon swears there is no expectation of resuming an exclusive partnership between the two countries, France is definitely interested in… investing in the area.

“Fillon pledged a new package of aid and debt relief and promised to remain Ivory Coast’s top partner in reconstruction and development.

He said he brought a large delegation of French business leaders, saying Ivory Coast needs major help rebuilding its infrastructure and French companies have the ‘know-how.’  But he refuted accusations the former colonial power wanted to resume the exclusive partnership it had imposed in the past, saying France is prepared to compete with other entities for any contracts.”

A few more details, courtesy of Xinhua:

“Meanwhile, France has also proposed to revise its defense protocol with Ivory Coast, which was signed half a century ago. French President Nicolas Sarkozy said his government would reduce the 900-strong Licorne forces to 200 or 250 members.

The French peacekeeping force helped the UN Operation in Cote d’Ivoire (UNOCI) to end the nation’s five-month-long bloody power struggle in April by arresting former President Laurent Gbagbo.”

This came after a falling-out between Gbagbo and French peacekeeping forces in 2004, which resulted in the deaths of nine French nationals. France retaliated by destroying the country’s air force. Which is, we would think, a tad excessive.

Though all stakeholders in Fillon’s West African tour seem intent on smiling and shaking hands, Reuters reports that all is not necessarily well in West Africa:

“The thawing of relations has lead some Ivorians, particularly those who embraced Gbagbo’s fiery nationalism, to fear a new ‘La France-Afrique’, a phrase used to disparage what many see as French neo-imperialism in Africa.”

What do you think? Should old colonial ties be strengthened?

Read more about French diplomacy in the latest issue of Carnet Atlantique.

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