French thought the British were obsessed with Mugabe


French views about Zimbabwe were totally different from those of the Americans and they thought the British were obsessed with President Robert Mugabe and vice-versa.

They also thought that the British and the United States were applying double standards on Zimbabwe.

“Where we see an erosion of the economy, human rights and the rule of law, the GOF (government of France) compares Zimbabwe with other African states and sees the situation as ‘not so bad’,” a cable released by Wikileaks says.

“The elections in Rwanda, in French eyes, were less fair than those in Zimbabwe; the suppression of the media in Cote d’Ivoire, according to the MFA (Ministry of Foreign Affairs), is worse than in Zimbabwe.

“Referring to the atrocities committed in Ndebeleland in the mid-eighties ‘condemned by no-one’, an MFA contact told us that there had never been rule of law in Zimbabwe.”


Full cable:


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Reference ID






2004-12-27 14:15

2011-08-30 01:44


Embassy Paris

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 PARIS 009130






E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/25/2014




Classified By: Political Counselor Josiah Rosenblatt

for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).


1. (C) SUMMARY: This is the first of several messages

reviewing France’s relations with Africa. The southern

African region currently attracts less French attention than

any other region of Africa. With no francophone countries,

and only one country currently engaged in conflict (Angola,

at much lower levels than in the past), the region is not

central to France’s political interests and its engagements

are relatively limited. The GOF’s problems with Angola over

a judicial investigation into arms trafficking, however, have

created political difficulties and may have repercussions for

French petroleum interests. High-level contacts between

France and South Africa have increased in recent years and,

as currently demonstrated in Cote d’Ivoire, Presidents Chirac

and Mbeki have established a dialogue on crisis resolution.





2. (C) Since the death of Jonas Savimbi in February 2002,

France has not had to contend with Angolan complaints about

French support, particularly from the politicians on the

right of the political spectrum such as former Defense

Minister Leotard, for UNITA. Similarly, we have seen no

recent public claims by Angola of French support for the FLEC

(Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda).

According to the MFA, many FLEC leaders are in Paris, and

Daniel Antonio Rosa, a member of the Angolan intelligence

service working from the Angolan Embassy, is charged with

monitoring their activities, occasionally meeting with them

to “buy them off.”


3. (C) However, the judicial investigation into the affairs

of French businessman Pierre Falcone, allegedly involved in

supplying arms to Angola in 1993-94 in violation of the 1991

Bicesse Agreement between the GRA and UNITA, continues to

complicate Franco/Angolan relations, with press reports of

Angolan threats to French petroleum interests. According to

the MFA, the traffic in arms was not in itself illegal, but

Falcone and others implicated in the “Angolagate” affair

failed to comply with a law dating from 1939 (resulting from

arms trafficking during the Spanish Civil War), requiring

French nationals to report such activities to the government.



4. (C) Apparently unreceptive to, or uncomprehending of,

French explanations of division of powers between Executive

and Judicial branches, the GRA decided during the summer of

2003 to name Falcone as an Angolan diplomat accredited to

UNESCO in Paris. This appointment followed the efforts of

then French FM de Villepin to secure the support of Angola

(then a U.N. Security Council member) to oppose military

action in Iraq when, according to press reports (denied by

the MFA), Villepin made some rash promises to the Angolans

regarding the Falcone affair.


5. (C) Angolan President dos Santos apparently regards

Falcone as someone who came to Angola’s aid at a time of

need. Dos Santos used the 2001 accreditation ceremony for

French Ambassador Alain Richard (who had had to wait six

months to present his credentials) to blast France for

alleged “defamation campaigns affecting the reputation and

interests of Angola.” Richard’s successor, Guy Azais, was

subjected to a similar lengthy wait before being able to

present his credentials just prior to Ambassador Efird, who

had arrived in country only a few days earlier.


6. (C) Presidents Chirac and dos Santos do not have the warm

relationship Chirac enjoys with many other long-serving

African heads of state, e.g. Eyadema, Bongo and Sassou.

Chirac last visited Luanda in July 1998 and, while dos Santos

spends vacation time in France, he notably failed to appear

in Paris for the February 2003 France/Africa summit, attended

by 42 African heads of state or government.


7. (C) In an effort to engage with the GRA, French FM Michel

Barnier sent a long letter to FM Miranda in September, again

seeking to explain why it was impossible for France to

intervene in the Falcone investigation. The GOF hoped to

arrange a visit to Luanda by Barnier, and, according to the

MFA, Ambassador Azais has made two requests to fix a date.

With the Angolans having responded “not now,” the MFA says

they will not ask a third time.


8. (C) The MFA is dismissive of the reported threats against

French petroleum interests, noting that TOTAL works with UK

and U.S. companies in Angola, never taking a majority

position. Thus, according to the MFA, any GRA action on any

oil concession would not only affect TOTAL, but also British

Petroleum and Chevron.




9. (C) In 2003, South African President Thabo Mbeki visited

France on four occasions. In January, in the presence of

UNSYG Annan and numerous African heads of state, President

Chirac invited Mbeki to lead the discussions at the Kleber

center meeting following the Marcoussis accords for Cote

d’Ivoire. Mbeki returned in February for the France/Africa

summit and was again present in Evian in June when France

hosted the G8 summit. Mbeki then made a state visit to

France in November, in part to mark the tenth anniversary of

South Africa’s transition to democracy.


10. (C) Chirac evidently admires Mbeki’s leadership on NEPAD

and his willingness to engage on conflict resolution in the

DRC, Burundi, the Comoros and, currently, in Cote d’Ivoire.

According to our MFA contacts, the relationship between

Chirac and Mbeki has helped to dispel mutual mistrust which

had existed in the 1970’s when black South Africans regarded

France as being too indulgent with the apartheid regime, and

France had seen South Africa as a rival for regional



11. (C) As with Angola, a judicial investigation, this time

in South Africa, has complicated the relationship. The

French were irritated by unorthodox initial steps taken by

South African justice officials investigating alleged

corruption by Vice-President Jacob Zuma relating to missile

sales by the French Thales company, but these difficulties

were resolved by an agreement on judicial cooperation.

According to the MFA, the South African investigation on the

Thales-related matter ended in August 2004.


12. (C) The French seem pleased that Foreign Minister

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma made an effort to learn French,

including by spending three weeks in a total immersion course

in France. The polite assessment by MFA officials of her

proficiency is “she’s not bad,” but one contact offered that

Zuma can not do much more than ask for a cup of coffee with

sugar. Notwithstanding the language barrier, FMs Barnier and

Zuma are in almost weekly contact, according to the MFA. We

expect the Chirac/Mbeki relationship to continue to deepen,

with France and South Africa working together on Cote

d’Ivoire and other crises in Africa. Beyond Africa, we also

expect Chirac and Mbeki from time to time to coordinate

public positions on other issues, such as Iraq, where their

views coincide.




13. (C) French views on Zimbabwe differ sharply from our own.

Where we see an erosion of the economy, human rights and the

rule of law, the GOF compares Zimbabwe with other African

states and sees the situation as “not so bad.” The elections

in Rwanda, in French eyes, were less fair than those in

Zimbabwe; the suppression of the media in Cote d’Ivoire,

according to the MFA, is worse than in Zimbabwe. Referring

to the atrocities committed in Ndebeleland in the

mid-eighties “condemned by no-one,” an MFA contact told us

that there had never been rule of law in Zimbabwe.


14. (C) Our differences over Zimbabwe were highlighted by the

French invitation to Robert Mugabe to attend the February

2003 France/Africa summit. Other than Rwandan President

Kagame’s disavowal of the Chirac-inspired condemnation of

military action in Iraq, Chirac’s handshake with Mugabe (even

a Frenchman wouldn’t kiss the Zimbabwean leader) is perhaps

the only lasting memory of that affair.


15. (C) Our French contacts, occasionally complaining about

the tone of our demarches the issue, told us that not

inviting Mugabe would have led to a boycott by other African

leaders, possibly even to a north/south or white/black

schism. The French view the British as largely responsible

for the current situation in Zimbabwe, asserting that British

failure to implement the terms of the 1980 Lancaster House

agreement led inevitably to Mugabe’s land seizures from “a

handful of white farmers.”


16. (C) The French view the British as obsessed with Mugabe,

and vice versa. They see the UK and the U.S. adopting a

double standard with regard to Zimbabwe. The French

expectation is that ZANU-PF will do the bare minimum to meet

the five SADC criteria for elections. If the MDC boycotts,

ZANU-PF will be able to claim legitimate victory. If not,

according to the MFA, they will do what is necessary to win,

but the elections will be no worse than those in neighboring

Mozambique, or those elsewhere in Africa which have been

accepted, even praised by western nations. The MFA envisions

this scenario leading to SADC blessing of the elections as

free and fair, making it difficult for the UK or the U.S. to

condemn them.


17. (C) Following MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s visit to

France several years ago, MFA contacts described him as

unimpressive, and we could elicit no condemnation from French

officials regarding the irregularities and excesses

orchestrated by the GOZ before, during and after the 2002

elections. With no significant political or economic

interests in Zimbabwe, we assess that the French will

continue to argue for engagement, rather than isolation of

Mugabe and his regime. In particular, the French plan to

push the EU to take a set-by-step approach to lifting

sanctions in response to anticipated moves by the GOZ. The

French recognize that their approach faces stiff opposition

from London, particularly in a British election year.




18. (C) According to the MFA, Presidents Chirac and Chissano

knew and liked each other well. Chissano studied in France

and the GOF courted Chissano when necessary, particularly

during the Mozambican president’s tenure as President of the

African Union. While Maputo was on the itinerary for one of

former FM de Villepin’s first (of many) trips to Africa, it

was selected when scheduling made meetings in South Africa

impossible. Mozambique receives more French development

assistance than any other non-francophone country, but we

detect no significant French political interest.


19. (C) As with Chissano, the French are positive about

Nujoma’s decision to retire, but only quietly so. With

friends like Eyadema and Deby, the GOF is hardly wedded to

the notion of term limits for African presidents. During

Nujoma’s last visit to France, he sought a meeting with

Cooperation Minister Darcos, causing concern in the GOF about

a potentially long wish-list for assistance. Instead, Nujoma

told Darcos that he liked French goat cheese, and sought

French assistance in developing a goat cheese industry in

Namibia, a project the GOF is now embarking on.




20. (C) Notwithstanding that French company Schneider

Electronics was found guilty in February of bribing the

former Chief Executive of the Lesotho Highland Development

Authority in connection with the construction of the Lesotho

Highlands Water Project, the case made no news in France.

There have been no recent high-level bilateral visits to or

from any of these five countries and GOF interest is minimal.




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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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