Sarkozy and the DRC Conflict Resolution Proposal - snapshot view from Brazzaville

Most people in the Republic of the Congo (Brazzaville) are more concern with the instrumentalization of the visit by Sassou Nguesso, with a sight on the coming elections in the country, than with what is going on in the eastern extremity of neighboring Congo DRC. Nguesso in turn takes advantage of the situation to capitalize on the sudden panic attack that Sarkozy, France and its businesses have had as they notice how they are losing their “grip” and influence of old “Françafrique”. More and more, actors such as China and India are “coupling” their economies with those of Africa, the so called new coupling. This is being done not only through the short-term purchase and securing of sources of primary goods in Africa but also through the acquisition of companies and businesses. These latter are of a longer-term time-horizon. Together with this there is also a new surge for political alignments at the level of emerging markets and powers in international relations, particularly when it comes to the debates and negotiation surrounding international trade and the design of the international institutions that shape the international political economy. In this trip, Sarkozy, with the package of initiatives that he presented in Brazzaville, gives signs of not wanting to leave France and its private sector behind and of also wishing to “accompany” these deeper economic linkages that increasingly look at Africa as a business partner of great potential. At the same time, Sarkozy believes that the French and European Jokers are those of the moral and benevolent strength of its political model and historical experience. Its attempt to “export peace” and French and European experience in conflict mediation ended up, however, seen as a paternalist gesture from someone who doesn’t really know or erroneously interprets the conflict narrative of the Kivus, its current reality and recent past. We’ll see how this attempt at a new breath of fresh air given to France-Africa relations will be something to be sustained for a longer time-span or if it this visit was in fact an exception that confirmed the rule of general disregard and paternalism sprinkled with a reinforcement of the personal-level business intimacies between French and African “big men”.

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