This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
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 TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM DJ ER ET KE SO SU TZ UG XW XA FR SUBJECT: FRANCE AND EAST AFRICA
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.
KENYA, TANZANIA AND UGANDA
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.