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West Africans Worry About Impact of French Presidential Vote

Many West Africans in former French colonies are reacting warily to the presidential election in France of Nicolas Sarkozy, who has proposed tough immigration policies. Some African leaders expressed satisfaction, but that view is not universal. Naomi Schwarz got the Senegalese reaction in Dakar.

The morning after France's second round presidential election, El Hajj Niang is in his usual spot, on a busy road near Dakar's international airport. Niang sells newspapers. He carries them in a blue plastic bag and in a bundle on his head.

Niang rifles through the papers on offer. Today, many feature the news from France, that conservative, son-of-immigrants, Nicolas Sarkozy has won the election.

Everyone is speaking about Mr. Sarkozy, he says.

One newspaper shows a photo of Mr. Sarkozy with Senegal President Abdoulaye Wade.

Niang says he is happy with the election outcome, because he supports Mr. Wade, and Mr. Wade supports Mr. Sarkozy.

Mr. Wade, in his congratulations message to the newly-elected president, called the election "brilliant." He has said he is of the same liberal, pro-business ideology.

But many Senegalese are far less pleased with the outcome.

Abdou Diallo is a driver in Dakar. He says he has strong doubts about Mr. Sarkozy and possible changes in French immigration policies.

Many people, across francophone West Africa, share these doubts.

The Benin, a newspaper in that country's capital, calls Mr. Sarkozy's election "a nightmare" for Africans, because of his tough stance on immigration, as well as his hardline personality. Last year, when Mr. Sarkozy visited Benin, he was greeted with hostile demonstrations.

Mr. Sarkozy has talked about what he calls, "chosen immigration," in which educated Africans are given preferential treatment over unskilled workers. Many young, unemployed Africans attempt to immigrate to France, and some try to get there illegally.

Mr. Sarkozy also angered Africans when he described Arab and Africans involved in the 2005 riots in France as "rabble," and said people should not hesitate to leave a country they do not love.

But despite Mr. Sarkozy's difficult past relationship with France's former colonies in Africa, he now says he will make Africa a priority.

In his victory speech, he talked about eliminating famine and poverty, and working with African countries to reform France's immigration policy.

France retains close economic and political ties to many of its former colonies. France has military bases in many African countries, including Senegal, and rapid-response forces in Ivory Coast, Chad, and Central African Republic.

Mr. Sarkozy says his first overseas trip will be to Africa.

But Diallo, the Senegalese driver in Dakar, says he is not yet convinced by Sarkozy's change of tone.