in Stories

Avoiding Mugabe

France, which had caused a diplomatic uproar by allowing Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe to the Africa-France summit of 2003, went all out to avoid Mugabe for the summit in 2007.

But it also faced the dilemma of how not to alienate the other Southern African Development Community countries.

Though they did not officially express any support for Mugabe, the presidents of Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa and Tanzania, did not attend the summit.

The French also sensed mixed messages emanating from the United Kingdom about how to handle Mugabe.

There was speculation that Gordon Brown, heir-apparent to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, might prove less committed to hard-line EU policies on Mugabe.

Blair himself had in 2004 privately complained to French President Jacques Chirac that conservative opportunists in Parliament had painted him into a corner over Mugabe.

 

 

Full cable:


Viewing cable 07PARIS849, PART III: AFRICA-FRANCE SUMMIT – AVOIDING A MUGABE

If you are new to these pages, please read an introduction on the structure of a cable as well as how to discuss them with others. See also the FAQs

Reference ID

Created

Classification

Origin

07PARIS849

2007-03-06 09:14

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Paris

VZCZCXRO6682

PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHMR RUEHPA RUEHRN RUEHROV RUEHSR

DE RUEHFR #0849/01 0650914

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

P 060914Z MAR 07

FM AMEMBASSY PARIS

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5381

INFO RUEHZO/AFRICAN UNION COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY PRIORITY

RUEHGG/UN SECURITY COUNCIL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

RUEHSB/AMEMBASSY HARARE PRIORITY 0412

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 PARIS 000849

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/06/2016

TAGS: PREL PHUM PINR KSUM XA ZI FR

SUBJECT: PART III: AFRICA-FRANCE SUMMIT – AVOIDING A MUGABE

MUCK-UP

 

REF: A. PARIS 847 B. PARIS 848 C. PARIS 578

 

Classified By: Political Minister Counselor Josiah B. Rosenblatt. Reas

ons 1.4b,d

 

1. (C) Summary: For the 2007 Africa-France Summit at Cannes,

President Chirac made a watershed policy choice to abide by

the EU travel ban and exclude Zimbabwean pariah leader Robert

Mugabe. Chirac had invited Mugabe four years earlier to the

2003 Paris Summit, amid concerns about the risk of a backlash

among Africans, including a Summit boycott. In preparing for

Cannes, the GoF pursued a quiet two-prong strategy, working

to forestall a possible SADC boycott while coordinating

overtures to Mugabe to defuse the issue and seek an alternate

Zimbabwean representative. This is the last of three cables

on the Africa-France Summit. End Summary.

 

2. (C) For the 2007 Africa-France Summit at Cannes, President

Chirac made a watershed policy choice to abide by the EU

travel ban and exclude Zimbabwean pariah leader Robert

Mugabe, despite concerns about a backlash among Africans.

The GoF caused an uproar in Europe in 2003 by inviting Mugabe

to the 2003 Africa-France Summit in Paris despite the EU

travel ban, arguing within the EU that Mugabe’s presence

afforded an opportunity for dialogue. The MFA maintains that

the EU travel ban authorizes exemptions in order to advance

peace efforts. However, Mugabe’s failure to make reciprocal

efforts toward reconciliation and the degraded situation in

Zimbabwe made a repeat invitation to Mugabe untenable.

Portugal, which will assume the EU Presidency in July and

preside at an EU-Africa Summit, watched carefully how the

French would address Mugabe.

 

3. (C) Jacques Champagne de Labriolle, Deputy Counselor in

the Presidency Africa Cell, in a February 21 conversation

with Africa Watcher, claimed credit for the decision to

uphold the EU travel ban and block Mugabe’s attendance of the

Summit, stating he had presented his arguments forcefully in

a September 2006 memorandum. Chirac’s decision did not come

naturally, according to Labriolle, for the French President

customarily favors dialogue over confrontation, and Chirac

worried that barring Mugabe, an iconic revolutionary figure,

would exacerbate North-South tensions. Labriolle posited

that the GoF had the influence to counter the threat of a

possible SADC boycott of the Cannes Summit. Chirac took his

decision early, Labriolle maintained, although the Elysee

kept mum until late in the game so as not to foreclose all

hope of a diplomatic compromise with Mugabe.

 

4. (C) The GoF advanced its Mugabe strategy on two tracks

over several months. The GoF turned to former Mozambican

President Chissano to try to coax and cajole Mugabe’s

concurrence in a diplomatic deal, according to Labriolle.

The GoF hoped for a face-saving arrangement whereby Mugabe

would decline an invitation from Chirac and dispatch a senior

emissary in his stead. In parallel, the MFA reached out to

lock down attendance by other SADC members at the

Africa-France Summit. Botswana, Labriolle noted, had a

history of bad blood with Mugabe, and was a prime candidate

to break ranks if Zimbabwe tried to orchestrate a bloc SADC

protest. Because Namibia, on the other hand, had

long-standing links to Mugabe, the MFA offered to host

Namibian President Pohamba for an official visit to France

during the period of the Summit. Thanks to this official

visit, Pohamba enjoyed the privilege of one of the only two

formal bilateral meetings that Chirac held at Cannes, the

other being with Ghanaian President Kufuor in the latter’s

capacity as AU Chairman.

 

5. (C) Although Mugabe rebuffed the overtures by Chissano and

the GoF, initial signs did not presage a diplomatic uproar,

according to Labriolle. Labriolle blamed diplomatic

clumsiness by Egypt for wounding Zimbabwean pride. Egypt,

intent on landing the hosting rights to the 2009

Africa-France Summit, had lobbied African delegations

intensively during the 2006 AU Summit in Addis Ababa, an

inappropriate venue, in Labriolle’s view. The Zimbabwean

delegation, smarting as the exclusion from Cannes hit home,

struck back and began to complain vocally.

 

6. (C) However, no serious SADC protest developed, Labriolle

noted. SADC members Mbeki of South Africa, Dos Santos of

Angola, Kikwete of Tanzania, and Kabila of DRC did fail to

show for the Cannes Summit; however, none officially invoked

Mugabe’s absence as the cause, Labriolle asserted. Dos

Santos, he suggested, continues to bristle over “Angolagate”

and the related judicial pursuits in France of French adviser

Falcone, whom Dos Santos has protected with an Angolan

 

PARIS 00000849 002 OF 002

 

 

diplomatic passport. Mbeki, who has an uneasy rapport with

Chirac due to differences over Cote d’Ivoire, claimed a

domestic political obligation; and Kikwete pleaded ill

health. (Note: Labriolle revealed Kikwete was due shortly in

Paris for medical check-ups, suggesting there may be some

validity to his excuse.) Kabila, confronting a flare-up in

DRC violence and laboring to install a new DRC government,

expressed profuse apologies to Chirac’s Presidential

Counselor Michel de Bonnecorse and then dispatched the most

senior representative available, President Kamerhe of the

National Assembly.

 

7. (C) Labriolle remarked that the Elysee sensed mixed

messages emanating from the UK about how to handle Mugabe.

He speculated that Gordon Brown, as heir-apparent to Blair,

might prove less committed to hard-line EU policies on

Mugabe. Labriolle asserted that Blair in 2004 had privately

complained to Chirac that conservative opportunists in

Parliament had painted him into a corner over Mugabe.

Labriolle lamented, with irony, the misunderstanding and

disinformation within the EU over French African policy,

noting the exaggerated disquiet at Brussels and in London

that Paris would not vote to extend EU penalties on Mugabe,

let alone adhere to the travel ban on Mugabe. Labriolle

maintained that Bonnecorse had definitively told UK Minister

for Africa Lord Triesman on October 20 that France would vote

to renew the travel ban.

 

Please visit Paris’ Classified Website at:

http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/paris/index.c fm

 

STAPLETON

 

(2 VIEWS)

Don't be shellfish... Please SHAREShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInEmail this to someonePrint this page

Write a Comment

Comment