The Foreign Minister’s Falcon 7X is waiting at the Villacoublay base on Wednesday evening. His bodyguards, two policemen from the government protection service, have already taken their seats. The Africa director of the Quai d’Orsay, Christophe Bigot, from Cléguérec (56), and his deputy, as well as the Africa adviser to the minister’s office, are also on board, in the ten-seater jet which, in six hours, will drop them off in Abidjan, before taking off again the next day for Monrovia, then Ouagadougou.
Barely out of a Defense Council with the President, Jean-Yves Le Drian climbs into the aircraft, looking cheerful. The man, used to going around the world a month, has rested features, contrary to the worries of those who, having passed him recently, found him tired. After a brief suspension during confinement, the “Sphinx” resumed its diplomatic marathon. He was in South Africa and Rwanda with the President, last week, making a round trip to Chad for the funeral of Idriss Déby, but also to Malta and Ireland. The head of diplomacy will be present this week at the NATO summit, before chairing the UN Security Council in New York in July, not to mention a visit to the State Department in Washington. In the meantime, he will probably have made a jump to Indonesia and South Korea.
A timely tour
At almost 74 years old, “Jean-Yves”, as the militants of the PS call him, is passionate about the geopolitics which took him away from the Breton theater. This quick tour of West Africa is timely. To reassure African heads of state, concerned about the modalities of Barkhane’s disengagement. At least in Burkina Faso, target of recurring jihadist attacks, the last of which caused a real carnage, 160 dead in the north of the country. Or to sensitize those who are not worried enough about the threat of these terrorist groups which descend more and more towards the coasts of the Gulf of Guinea, even if Ghana, Togo and Benin have not yet been affected. Incidentally, it is a question of reaching out to English-speaking Liberia, this small poor country of four million inhabitants, of which President George Weah, former PSG footballer, visibly intrigues the minister.
First stop: Abidjan, where he was welcomed in the evening by his Ivorian counterpart, Kandia Camara, and by Ambassador Jean-Christophe Belliard, who was stationed in Ethiopia, a country for which he retains a strong attachment. With its American “skyline”, its five growth points, the Ivorian economic capital pulls the country, which represents half of the GDP of the former CFA Franc zone. As with most of the neighbors, covid, perhaps because of the youth of the population, has not been a real problem. After the death of his heir, the former Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly, then, disturbingly coincidentally, of his successor Hamed Bakayoko (“Hambak”), the old president Alassane Ouattara, whom Paris would have dissuaded from running for office, still remains in the process. orders. During Operation Licorne, France had deployed 2,000 troops in special operations (OPEX). After the attack on the French camp of Bouaké by Russian militiamen, Jacques Chirac had the Ivorian air force destroyed and fired, by helicopters, against the crowd who tried to cross the bridge to attack the French nationals who had taken refuge in the airport, awaiting exfiltration (there are still 20,000 today, half of them binational).
Gbagbo is about to return
Nicolas Sarkozy, he freed Alassane Ouattara by the French Special Forces. He had been surrounded with his supporters for weeks at the Hotel Ivoire, after his election to the presidency that his predecessor, Laurent Gbagbo, did not want to recognize. Unlike Guillaume Soro, Ouattara’s former accomplice who became his enemy, and expelled from France because he wanted to stir up unrest in Côte d’Ivoire, Gbagbo is coming back into the spotlight. Pardoned by the International Court of Justice, this tribune not devoid of charisma is preparing to return to Abidjan on June 17. It belongs to the Baoulés, located in the center of the country, which shelters the cocoa plantations, while Ouattara is from the north, near Burkina. From where this debate on the ivoirité which ignited, for years, the political class, with doubts expressed on the nationality of the current president.
“The Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) would like there to be a crowd for the return of Gbagbo and the authorities that this be discreet. We are rather in favor of reconciliation, but everyone must be responsible and not go back to old demons, ”notes a French diplomat, referring to the civil war which cut the country in two and left 3,000 dead.
The objective would be to integrate Gbagbo’s FPI and the PDCI
of Konan Bédié in the political game. However, the enemy brothers of Côte d’Ivoire, who have never ceased to ally themselves, then to fight each other, can they finally come to an understanding in the name of the stability of the country? It is because jihadist cells, including Ivorians, are now proliferating in the northeast of the country, especially in the Parc de la Comoé. Jean-Yves Le Drian made it clear to President Ouattara that his country was not immune to terrorism. In fact, five attacks have occurred on the border of Côte d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso since March.
A threat to Europe
The subject has nonetheless been preoccupying Ivorian leaders for some time, as evidenced by this intervention by former Prime Minister Gon Coulibaly, before his death, at the twelfth Forum of the French Institute of International Relations (Ifri), in Marrakech. . “This should not remain a purely African issue, because it is a threat not only for Africa but also for Europe”. The fact remains that Paris regretted the lack of reaction of the Ivorian authorities to the coup d’état in Mali. Which precipitated the end of Operation Barkhane as soon as negotiations with jihadist groups were displayed by the new power in Bamako. The inauguration by Jean-Yves Le Drian of the International Academy against Terrorism, where internships have started for 300 officers from the region, appears to be the beginning of a response. While waiting to move up a gear.
To be continued
* Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire