French views about Zimbabwe were totally different from those of the Americans and they thought the British were obsessed with President Robert Mugabe and vice-versa.
They also thought that the British and the United States were applying double standards on Zimbabwe.
“Where we see an erosion of the economy, human rights and the rule of law, the GOF (government of France) compares Zimbabwe with other African states and sees the situation as ‘not so bad’,” a cable released by Wikileaks says.
“The elections in Rwanda, in French eyes, were less fair than those in Zimbabwe; the suppression of the media in Cote d’Ivoire, according to the MFA (Ministry of Foreign Affairs), is worse than in Zimbabwe.
“Referring to the atrocities committed in Ndebeleland in the mid-eighties ‘condemned by no-one’, an MFA contact told us that there had never been rule of law in Zimbabwe.”
Viewing cable 04PARIS9130, FRANCE AND SOUTHERN AFRICA
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 03 PARIS 009130
EUCOM FOR POLAD SNELL
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/25/2014
SUBJECT: FRANCE AND SOUTHERN AFRICA
Classified By: Political Counselor Josiah Rosenblatt
for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).
¶1. (C) SUMMARY: This is the first of several messages
reviewing France’s relations with Africa. The southern
African region currently attracts less French attention than
any other region of Africa. With no francophone countries,
and only one country currently engaged in conflict (Angola,
at much lower levels than in the past), the region is not
central to France’s political interests and its engagements
are relatively limited. The GOF’s problems with Angola over
a judicial investigation into arms trafficking, however, have
created political difficulties and may have repercussions for
French petroleum interests. High-level contacts between
France and South Africa have increased in recent years and,
as currently demonstrated in Cote d’Ivoire, Presidents Chirac
and Mbeki have established a dialogue on crisis resolution.
¶2. (C) Since the death of Jonas Savimbi in February 2002,
France has not had to contend with Angolan complaints about
French support, particularly from the politicians on the
right of the political spectrum such as former Defense
Minister Leotard, for UNITA. Similarly, we have seen no
recent public claims by Angola of French support for the FLEC
(Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda).
According to the MFA, many FLEC leaders are in Paris, and
Daniel Antonio Rosa, a member of the Angolan intelligence
service working from the Angolan Embassy, is charged with
monitoring their activities, occasionally meeting with them
to “buy them off.”
¶3. (C) However, the judicial investigation into the affairs
of French businessman Pierre Falcone, allegedly involved in
supplying arms to Angola in 1993-94 in violation of the 1991
Bicesse Agreement between the GRA and UNITA, continues to
complicate Franco/Angolan relations, with press reports of
Angolan threats to French petroleum interests. According to
the MFA, the traffic in arms was not in itself illegal, but
Falcone and others implicated in the “Angolagate” affair
failed to comply with a law dating from 1939 (resulting from
arms trafficking during the Spanish Civil War), requiring
French nationals to report such activities to the government.
¶4. (C) Apparently unreceptive to, or uncomprehending of,
French explanations of division of powers between Executive
and Judicial branches, the GRA decided during the summer of
2003 to name Falcone as an Angolan diplomat accredited to
UNESCO in Paris. This appointment followed the efforts of
then French FM de Villepin to secure the support of Angola
(then a U.N. Security Council member) to oppose military
action in Iraq when, according to press reports (denied by
the MFA), Villepin made some rash promises to the Angolans
regarding the Falcone affair.
¶5. (C) Angolan President dos Santos apparently regards
Falcone as someone who came to Angola’s aid at a time of
need. Dos Santos used the 2001 accreditation ceremony for
French Ambassador Alain Richard (who had had to wait six
months to present his credentials) to blast France for
alleged “defamation campaigns affecting the reputation and
interests of Angola.” Richard’s successor, Guy Azais, was
subjected to a similar lengthy wait before being able to
present his credentials just prior to Ambassador Efird, who
had arrived in country only a few days earlier.
¶6. (C) Presidents Chirac and dos Santos do not have the warm
relationship Chirac enjoys with many other long-serving
African heads of state, e.g. Eyadema, Bongo and Sassou.
Chirac last visited Luanda in July 1998 and, while dos Santos
spends vacation time in France, he notably failed to appear
in Paris for the February 2003 France/Africa summit, attended
by 42 African heads of state or government.
¶7. (C) In an effort to engage with the GRA, French FM Michel
Barnier sent a long letter to FM Miranda in September, again
seeking to explain why it was impossible for France to
intervene in the Falcone investigation. The GOF hoped to
arrange a visit to Luanda by Barnier, and, according to the
MFA, Ambassador Azais has made two requests to fix a date.
With the Angolans having responded “not now,” the MFA says
they will not ask a third time.
¶8. (C) The MFA is dismissive of the reported threats against
French petroleum interests, noting that TOTAL works with UK
and U.S. companies in Angola, never taking a majority
position. Thus, according to the MFA, any GRA action on any
oil concession would not only affect TOTAL, but also British
Petroleum and Chevron.
¶9. (C) In 2003, South African President Thabo Mbeki visited
France on four occasions. In January, in the presence of
UNSYG Annan and numerous African heads of state, President
Chirac invited Mbeki to lead the discussions at the Kleber
center meeting following the Marcoussis accords for Cote
d’Ivoire. Mbeki returned in February for the France/Africa
summit and was again present in Evian in June when France
hosted the G8 summit. Mbeki then made a state visit to
France in November, in part to mark the tenth anniversary of
South Africa’s transition to democracy.
¶10. (C) Chirac evidently admires Mbeki’s leadership on NEPAD
and his willingness to engage on conflict resolution in the
DRC, Burundi, the Comoros and, currently, in Cote d’Ivoire.
According to our MFA contacts, the relationship between
Chirac and Mbeki has helped to dispel mutual mistrust which
had existed in the 1970’s when black South Africans regarded
France as being too indulgent with the apartheid regime, and
France had seen South Africa as a rival for regional
¶11. (C) As with Angola, a judicial investigation, this time
in South Africa, has complicated the relationship. The
French were irritated by unorthodox initial steps taken by
South African justice officials investigating alleged
corruption by Vice-President Jacob Zuma relating to missile
sales by the French Thales company, but these difficulties
were resolved by an agreement on judicial cooperation.
According to the MFA, the South African investigation on the
Thales-related matter ended in August 2004.
¶12. (C) The French seem pleased that Foreign Minister
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma made an effort to learn French,
including by spending three weeks in a total immersion course
in France. The polite assessment by MFA officials of her
proficiency is “she’s not bad,” but one contact offered that
Zuma can not do much more than ask for a cup of coffee with
sugar. Notwithstanding the language barrier, FMs Barnier and
Zuma are in almost weekly contact, according to the MFA. We
expect the Chirac/Mbeki relationship to continue to deepen,
with France and South Africa working together on Cote
d’Ivoire and other crises in Africa. Beyond Africa, we also
expect Chirac and Mbeki from time to time to coordinate
public positions on other issues, such as Iraq, where their
¶13. (C) French views on Zimbabwe differ sharply from our own.
Where we see an erosion of the economy, human rights and the
rule of law, the GOF compares Zimbabwe with other African
states and sees the situation as “not so bad.” The elections
in Rwanda, in French eyes, were less fair than those in
Zimbabwe; the suppression of the media in Cote d’Ivoire,
according to the MFA, is worse than in Zimbabwe. Referring
to the atrocities committed in Ndebeleland in the
mid-eighties “condemned by no-one,” an MFA contact told us
that there had never been rule of law in Zimbabwe.
¶14. (C) Our differences over Zimbabwe were highlighted by the
French invitation to Robert Mugabe to attend the February
2003 France/Africa summit. Other than Rwandan President
Kagame’s disavowal of the Chirac-inspired condemnation of
military action in Iraq, Chirac’s handshake with Mugabe (even
a Frenchman wouldn’t kiss the Zimbabwean leader) is perhaps
the only lasting memory of that affair.
¶15. (C) Our French contacts, occasionally complaining about
the tone of our demarches the issue, told us that not
inviting Mugabe would have led to a boycott by other African
leaders, possibly even to a north/south or white/black
schism. The French view the British as largely responsible
for the current situation in Zimbabwe, asserting that British
failure to implement the terms of the 1980 Lancaster House
agreement led inevitably to Mugabe’s land seizures from “a
handful of white farmers.”
¶16. (C) The French view the British as obsessed with Mugabe,
and vice versa. They see the UK and the U.S. adopting a
double standard with regard to Zimbabwe. The French
expectation is that ZANU-PF will do the bare minimum to meet
the five SADC criteria for elections. If the MDC boycotts,
ZANU-PF will be able to claim legitimate victory. If not,
according to the MFA, they will do what is necessary to win,
but the elections will be no worse than those in neighboring
Mozambique, or those elsewhere in Africa which have been
accepted, even praised by western nations. The MFA envisions
this scenario leading to SADC blessing of the elections as
free and fair, making it difficult for the UK or the U.S. to
¶17. (C) Following MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s visit to
France several years ago, MFA contacts described him as
unimpressive, and we could elicit no condemnation from French
officials regarding the irregularities and excesses
orchestrated by the GOZ before, during and after the 2002
elections. With no significant political or economic
interests in Zimbabwe, we assess that the French will
continue to argue for engagement, rather than isolation of
Mugabe and his regime. In particular, the French plan to
push the EU to take a set-by-step approach to lifting
sanctions in response to anticipated moves by the GOZ. The
French recognize that their approach faces stiff opposition
from London, particularly in a British election year.
MOZAMBIQUE AND NAMIBIA
¶18. (C) According to the MFA, Presidents Chirac and Chissano
knew and liked each other well. Chissano studied in France
and the GOF courted Chissano when necessary, particularly
during the Mozambican president’s tenure as President of the
African Union. While Maputo was on the itinerary for one of
former FM de Villepin’s first (of many) trips to Africa, it
was selected when scheduling made meetings in South Africa
impossible. Mozambique receives more French development
assistance than any other non-francophone country, but we
detect no significant French political interest.
¶19. (C) As with Chissano, the French are positive about
Nujoma’s decision to retire, but only quietly so. With
friends like Eyadema and Deby, the GOF is hardly wedded to
the notion of term limits for African presidents. During
Nujoma’s last visit to France, he sought a meeting with
Cooperation Minister Darcos, causing concern in the GOF about
a potentially long wish-list for assistance. Instead, Nujoma
told Darcos that he liked French goat cheese, and sought
French assistance in developing a goat cheese industry in
Namibia, a project the GOF is now embarking on.
ZAMBIA, MALAWI, BOTSWANA, LESOTHO, AND SWAZILAND
¶20. (C) Notwithstanding that French company Schneider
Electronics was found guilty in February of bribing the
former Chief Executive of the Lesotho Highland Development
Authority in connection with the construction of the Lesotho
Highlands Water Project, the case made no news in France.
There have been no recent high-level bilateral visits to or
from any of these five countries and GOF interest is minimal.