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2004-12-27 14:48:00
Embassy Paris
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 PARIS 009133 


E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/25/2014

Classified By: Political Minister Counselor Josiah Rosenblatt
for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (C) SUMMARY. France's principal long-term concern in East
Africa is the management of its relations with Djibouti where
it maintains a large permanent military presence. The crisis
in Darfur has prompted a more active French policy with
regard to Sudan, but it remains largely a "Chad problem" for
the GOF. Elsewhere, France's engagement arises from its
presence on the UNSC and its interests in addressing the
crisis in the Great Lakes. END SUMMARY.


2. (C) The 2,873 French troops in Djibouti represents the
largest permanent deployment of French forces outside French
territory worldwide (3,267 troops in Kosovo and nearly 5,000
currently in Cote d'Ivoire are not permanent deployments).
In addition to maintaining a presence in the region, the
military benefits from the ability to engage in maneuvers
using live rounds, practically impossible anywhere in
metropolitan France. France welcomes the U.S. military
presence in Djibouti but is concerned about the increased
terrorist threat level for the 6,000 French military
dependents and the burden for its forces charged with
Djibouti's external security. France's dominant role in
Djibouti leads them to expect that the USG inform France (as
well as Djibouti) on all military operations initiated from
Djiboutian territory. Embassy Djibouti reporting notes that
contact between French and U.S. diplomats and military
officials on the ground is continual, with close cooperation
and collaboration.

3. (C) The French repeatedly express concern to us that our
military presence should not provide Djibouti with a pretext
to play the USG and GOF against each other in a bidding war
for development assistance. Whether coincidentally or not,
following the announcement early in 2003, of a USD 31 million
assistance package for Djibouti, the GOF announced a 30
million Euro package roughly equivalent to our own at
then-prevailing exchange rates.

4. (C) As with a number of other African countries, France's
relations with Djibouti are complicated by a French judicial
investigation. The Djibouti case concerns the 1995 death 50
miles north of the Djiboutian capital of French judge Bernard
Borrel. Borrel was in Djibouti investigating the 1990
bombing of the Cafe de Paris in Djibouti. The Borrel affair
became inflamed in April 2004, when an attorney for Borrel's
widow implicated Djiboutian President Ismael Omar Guelleh
(IOG) in her husband's death. In response, Djibouti, which
claims Borrel's death was the result of suicide, demanded
that the GOF clear Guelleh, essentially requiring the
executive branch to intervene in a judicial investigation.
France refused, but subsequently assured IOG that he would be

immune from questioning during his August 2004, and
subsequent, visits to France as head of state.

5. (C) Notwithstanding the view of French officials that IOG
is an occasionally difficult partner, unlikely to use any
form of assistance for the benefit of the Djiboutian people,
France is reluctant to challenge Djibouti on human rights
concerns. For example despite consideration at senior levels
of the GOF, the arrest in 2003 of imprisoned journalist Daher
Ahmed Farah elicited no criticism by France. Similarly, the
GOF took no public position regarding the announcement by
Djibouti in September 2003 of its intent to expel foreigners
from the country.


6. (C) France has no dog in the Ethiopia/Eritrea fight but,
as a permanent Security Council member, is obliged to remain
informed, if not engaged. By way of illustration, we saw and
heard nothing from the GOF regarding the violence in Gambella
in December 2003. Our limited contacts on the border issue
have revealed a slight tilt in favor of Eritrea, including a
suggestion that the USG, notwithstanding our strategic
interests in Ethiopia, make some form of gesture towards
Asmara. With the situation currently still at an impasse,
French officials have indicated a willingness to consider a
reduction in UNMEE troop levels should the UNSYG so recommend.


7. (C) In what may be a post-modern Fashoda scenario, our
contacts have repeatedly stressed to us that the GOF seeks to
avoid complicating USG-led efforts to bring peace to Sudan.
MFA officials have taken care to consult with us before,
during, and after any travel to Sudan by French officials.
We are repeatedly told that the GOS would never have taken
steps towards peace with the SPLA absent the Sudan Peace Act
and continued high-level USG pressure. However, the
emergence of the crisis in Darfur, which for France is a
problem because of its relationship with Chad, has obliged
the French to be more active, leading to reports of bad
feeling between USG and French diplomats in the field.
France sees ties between Chadian President Deby's ethnic
Zaghawa kinsmen and the Darfur rebels, and the refugees
entering Chad from Darfur as potentially leading to the fall
of Deby's regime.

8. (C) Beyond their concerns for the stability of Chad, the
GOF also fears that too much pressure on the Khartoum regime
could cause it to fall, leading to either a Turabist faction
taking control, or to a Somalia scenario in which there is no
authority with which the international community could engage
to end the conflict in Darfur. The GOF is highly skeptical
about the SLM and JEM rebel movements, asserting variously
that their demands are unclear or unrealistic. However,
former FM de Villepin, during his February 2004 visit to
Sudan, offered to host a conference to bring together the GOS
and the rebels. The GOS refused the offer and, with Villepin
gone and talks having begun in Abuja, the offer is now almost
certainly off the table.


9. (C) Following a period of debate within the GOF post 9/11,
based on the assumption that the USG might undertake military
activity, French engagement on Somalia has been limited to
pro-forma messages of support from President Chirac to TNG
President Abdiqasim Salad Hasan (in March 2002), and to
Abdallah Yusuf Ahmed (in October 2004) following his
selection as President of the Federal Republic of Somalia.


10. (C) Despite claims that France has broadened its Africa
policy to engage with Anglophone states as well as former
colonies and other French-speaking nations, French engagement
with Anglophone east African nations is almost solely focused
on the roles played by those countries in the Great Lakes.
The French see Uganda as continuing to manipulate events in
northeastern DRC, and occasionally express concern about
Tanzanian support for Burundian rebel groups, or moves to
refoule Burundian refugees. The French know, and admit, that
their influence is limited and seek to engage us and the
British to influence Kampala and Dar on Great Lakes issues.