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Valéry Giscard d’Estaing and Africa: a thwarted love


Former French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, aged 94, died on December 2, 2020 “surrounded by his family” in central France. In Africa, if we remember VGE as the one who tried to pacify relations between Paris and African capitals, his name remains definitely associated with that of Jean-Bedel Bokassa, the Central African dictator to whom he had reserved his first presidential visit. before having it overthrown a few years later. “It’s true that I love Africa. This love has had consequences on the course of my presidency ”, wrote VGE in 1991, in Power and Life. The confrontation, second volume of his Mémoires.

The Bokassa diamond scandal mortgage

Indeed, the revelations of Chained duck, on October 10, 1979, on the diamonds offered by the President of the Central African Republic to Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, then Minister of Finance, in 1973, will permanently tarnish his image. Next week, Duck affirmed that the value of the diamond plate is one million francs and specifies that other diamonds were offered to him on the occasion of his trips to Bangui between 1970 and 1975. On November 27, President Giscard d ‘Estaing made a “categorical and contemptuous denial” of the allegations regarding the value of the gifts he allegedly received. “We must,” he said, “let low things die of their own poison”. A year later, on September 16, 1980, the satirical weekly revived the affair by publishing a telephone interview with the former Central African emperor Jean Bedel Bokassa, deposed from his throne on September 20, 1979 by France annoyed to see him fall. get closer to the Libyan guide Muammar Gaddafi. Here he says “having given diamonds four times to the presidential couple”. And to continue: “You cannot imagine what I gave to this family. “On March 10, 1981, VGE declared on television that” there is no mystery in the diamond affair “and that” the proceeds of these gifts were given to Central African humanitarian organizations “. He specifies that the diamonds were sold “for the benefit of the Central African Red Cross, a maternity hospital, a nursery and a mission”.

According to Point of March 22, 1981, which consulted the accounting of official gifts at the Elysee Palace, the diamonds were sold for a sum of 114,977 francs given to Central African charities, In an interview with Washington Post of May 8, 1981, the fallen emperor reaffirmed that he had offered diamonds to VGE, in the presence of witnesses, on four occasions in eight years. Contrary to the indications of the French president for whom the diamonds received were only small stones, Bokassa claimed to have offered him diamonds of 10 to 20 carats. He also claimed to have offered the Giscard d’Estaing family, including two cousins, more diamonds than to anyone else. “I spoiled them,” he said before continuing: “They are rotten. For the record, Bokassa admitted to granting this interview, on the eve of the second round of the presidential election, in order to prevent the re-election of VGE. “I settle my accounts with those who caused my fall,” he said at the conclusion of his interview. Can we say that there is a cause and effect link. In any case, on May 10, François Mitterrand won to become the first socialist president of the Ve Republic.

A desire to renew the relationship between France and Africa

The symbol is all the more devastating as VGE had undertaken many initiatives to forge solid links with the continent. President, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing has displayed a firm desire to break with the method of General de Gaulle. He promised himself to return “Africa to Africans” by closing the door to Foccart networks, by pacifying the country’s relations with Algeria and by getting closer to former countries with which relations were difficult, such as Sékou’s Guinea. Touré. Thus, as soon as it was elected, VGE re-established the Ministry of Cooperation, a wish of African Heads of State in place of the former General Secretariat for African and Malagasy Affairs chaired by Jacques Foccart. In addition, under his presidency no less than six France-Africa summits were held. Suffice to say that the appreciation of Giscard’s relationship with Africa could not be reduced to what happened with Bokassa and the Central African Republic.

The arrival of VGE in business also marked the return of the French military to the continent against rebellions.

At the end of the 1970s, in the midst of the Cold War, Paris was accused of playing the role of “Africa’s gendarme” with its interventions twice in Chad and especially in the former Belgian Congo, now Zaire, and today. Democratic Republic of Congo. In 1977 first, to help General Mobutu during the first Shaba war, then on May 19, 1978 when the Foreign Legion jumped on Kolwezi in order to free the city from the Katangese rebels supported by the Soviet Union. The operations that will follow, Tacaud in Chad, Barracuda in the Central African Republic, all marked with the seal of secrecy, will be criticized. “I don’t want African states, friends of France, when they are within their rights and their security is threatened, to feel abandoned. They will not be abandoned ”, had justified President Giscard d’Estaing.

The Françafrique networks still in operation anyway

Behind the scenes, VGE wanted to play all the cards in a world undergoing profound change. He relied heavily on René Journiac, a discreet Monsieur Africa, but a worthy successor to Jacques Foccart, of whom he was the right-hand man. What will make the former Minister of Foreign Affairs Louis de Guiringaud say: “Africa is the only continent where France can still, with 500 men, change the course of history. For VGE, the goal is also economical. French companies did not hesitate to do business in South Africa, which is still under the apartheid regime. At the same time, VGE and its Mr. Africa have embarked on the track of the oil manna of Gabon and Congo with in-depth research, or the search for uranium in Niger to ensure the nuclear future of France. Result: today, Africa retains this image of a president torn between rupture and conservatism.

African leaders react to death of VGE

From President Ali Bongo of Gabon, via Macky Sall, President of Senegal, to anonymous, many have reacted to the announcement of the death of ex-President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing. Short tour of the track.

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