Hollande meets with Gabon President, Ali Bongo

France’s President Hollande shakes hands with Gabon’s President Bongo in Paris.
Photo: REUTERS/Mal Langsdon

Thursday afternoon, Francois Hollande met with Ali Bongo, President of Gabon, at the Palace Elysée. During their meeting, the relationship between France and its former colony were discussed in depth. France has numerous military and strategic interests in Gabon.

At the end of his visit, Ali Bongo reiterated its confidence in “the great friendship” between the two countries. “I do not know france-afrique,” he has also added to address the criticism aroused by the visit.

Relations between France and Gabon have always been strained. The French government has always been particularly interested in the fortunes of the Bongo family, and the Parti Socialist (PS), now in office, historically has been highly critical of the regime. This visit aimed to reassure the Gabon autorities that their relationship with the new French government would remain stable.

Bongo’s spokesperson explained before the meeting that “France was still the main economic partner of Gabon,” a statement understood as a warning to Paris. Many companies, such as Total and Bolloré are located in the country, which also provides crucial petrol and uranium resources.

In France, this diplomatic visit has sparked controversy. Many claim that François Hollande’s policy has changed regarding the African continent and its Francophone countries. Gabon is a symbol of france-afrique, a term often associated with the dark political history of France’s relationship with its former African colonies.

In 2010, Ali Bongo succeeded his father, Omar Bongo, who died after 41 years as President. Ali Bongo was elected despite strongly contested elections, in which the role of France continues to be discussed. Many accusations of corruption have been made against the regime and its opponents criticize the authoritarian excess of power.

Hollande has many future meetings scheduled with African heads of state including Alpha Condé, the President of Guinea, and Macky Sall, the President of Senegal.

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