News

    Africa - a Forgotten Issue in French Election

    Francois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy
    Francois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy
    Lisa Bryant

    The economy, jobs and immigration are hotly debated issues during France's presidential campaign. But foreign affairs are taking a backseat - and the country's longstanding ties with Africa are no exception.  

    The Chateau Rouge neighborhood in northern Paris is a second home to many immigrants from North and sub-Saharan Africa.  The busy streets are lined with African hairdressers, restaurants, clothing shops and phone stores offering cheap calls to families back home.

    There are also a few battered posters of the two finalists in Sunday's presidential runoff vote - incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy and Socialist Party frontrunner Francois Hollande.

    Forty-year-old Paulette Wetche, a hairdresser from Cameroon, is not interested in either candidate.

    Wetche, who has French citizenship, is not sure how she will cast her ballot on May 6.  As far as she is concerned, all politicians make promises they never keep.  So there is not much difference between Sarkozy and Hollande.

    Cheikh Lo, an illegal immigrant from Senegal, does not agree.

    Lo says under President Sarkozy, life in France has been difficult.  He is praying for Hollande to win the elections because he believes the Socialist candidate will help illegal immigrants like himself get their working papers in France.

    Sarkozy has cracked down on illegal immigration during his five years in office.  During his campaign, he has also said that France has too many immigrants - in what analysts describe as a bid to woo far-right voters.

    But it is not certain that Hollande will help illegal immigrants like Lo if he becomes president.  In an interview on French radio Friday,  he said that during the current economic slowdown, it is necessary to limit economic immigration to France - and that he would crack down on illegal immigrants.

    France's relationship with Africa is, of course, far broader than just immigration.  When he was elected to office in 2007, Sarkozy vowed to a radical break from traditional French-African relations, which critics say was marked by lack of transparency and cronyism.

    At a 2010 summit with African leaders in the southern city of Nice, Sarkozy said France and Africa have a special relationship - and it is impossible today to address major international issues without Africa.

    Has Sarkozy charted the new French-African relationship he promised?  Pierre Cherruau, editor-in-chief of the online publication, Slate Afrique, is not so sure.

    "It is very difficult to cut these kind of [strings] because there is a strong economic background - some very important French companies are linked to this network, like the oil business or the nuclear business - companies like Areva," said Cherruau.

    Still, Cherruau says there have been some changes.  Under Sarkozy, France has reduced its military footprint on the continent.  Sarkozy's government also argues relations are much more transparent.

    While Sarkozy has retained ties to some longtime African leaders, he has also forged new ones - including with the current, democratically elected presidents of Ivory Coast and Senegal.

    Cherruau believes that if Hollande is elected, he could usher in yet more changes.  Hollande, for example, took a tough line early on against former Ivorian leader Laurent Gbagbo, who once had close ties to France's socialist party.

    But Cherruau says Hollande lacks African experience - and that if African leaders could vote next Sunday, they would probably pick Sarkozy.

    "Most presidents in Africa feel closer to the conservative party," he said. "Because in the past, they had relations with the right wing, with the conservative party."

    At Chateau d'Eau, Wetche does not believe Sarkozy has improved French-African ties.  She looks at the issue from her own experience; life for her family back in Cameroon is just as tough as ever.

    Wetche says things could change under an Hollande presidency.  But these are hard times, she says, and it is very difficult to know which politician to trust.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limitedi
    X
    Katie Arnold
    May 04, 2016 12:31 PM
    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora