By RFIPubliée the 27-09-2019Modified the 27-09-2019 at 04:34

Since General de Gaulle, all French presidents have been described as "African". In the case of Jacques Chirac, often called "Chirac l'Africain", the nickname does not seem usurped as its links with the continent and its leaders were strong.

No other French president maintains such close relations with African leaders as Jacques Chirac throughout his political life. First there is Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid icon. In the memory of the former French president, the former head of the South African state is not surprisingly called " universal symbol of truth, justice and tolerance ."

More crunchy, Jacques Chirac also said he had committed to Nelson Mandela in the early 1970s by participating in the financing of the ANC. And at the request of another great friend of Jacques Chirac: the king of Morocco at the time, Hassan II.

Moreover, during the funeral of Hassan II, in 1999, Jacques Chirac, become president, is received by the family. Few Western leaders will be. The indiscretions even give Jacques Chirac the status of mediator, arbitrator within the Moroccan royal family.

The Algeria

Among the African countries with which Jacques Chirac has had a special relationship, there is Algeria. The former head of state made the Algerian war as an officer from 1956 and was deeply impressed by this experience. Forty years later, becoming head of state, and despite some misunderstandings, he contributes to the reconciliation between Paris and Algiers.

In 2001, Jacques Chirac officially recognizes the debt of France vis-à-vis the harkis, these Muslims who fought in the French army between 1954 and 1962. Then there is the memorial in 2002, in Paris, dedicated to soldiers French and harkis fallen in Algeria. All a symbol, even if the date chosen for the inauguration is a debate: " Soldiers trades, volunteer fighters, French Muslims engaged in the auxiliary forces, all experienced the same hardships. Our Republic must ensure its duty of memory, it associates in the same tribute his children of all origins died for France ", declares the one who is still president.

A year later, a cheering crowd greets Jacques Chirac in Algiers. This is the first visit of a French head of state since independence. Jacques Chirac multiplies the gestures of rapprochement up to offer President Bouteflika the seal that the dey of Algiers gave when he surrendered to the French expeditionary corps in 1930.

President Jacques Chirac during his visit to Algeria on March 3, 2003. © PATRICK KOVARIK / AFP

The French president is showing signs of rapprochement with his Algerian counterpart. Abdelaziz Bouteflika is described as " charming, skilful and pragmatic ". Abdelaziz Bouteflika, elected in 1999, was for Jacques Chirac " bearer of a new breath for Algeria " and in particular in terms of " democratic openness ".

But the idyll is short-lived. In 2005, the adoption by France of a law which evokes the " positive role " of colonization ignites the powders. Jacques Chirac will repeal this text, but too late. The episode has permanently marked the spirits.

The memory left to me by Jacques Chirac is that a popular reconciliation between Algeria and France is possible. It's something that has come true that I've seen, see. Algerians who warmly applaud a French president.

Ihsane el-Kadi, journalist and director of Interface Media Group

27-09-2019 - By Leïla Beratto

The clash with Gbagbo the Ivorian

Among the hot moments of the second year of Jacques Chirac, there is also the Franco-Ivorian crisis of December 2004. In the year 2000, the election of Laurent Gbagbo is a disappointment for Jacques Chirac, he who had supported until coup d'état of December 1999 Henri Konan Bédié, the heir Felix Houphouet-Boigny, the historical ally of the French right. Laurent Gbagbo is from the socialist movement and regularly accuses France of conducting a " neo-colonialist " policy in Africa.

Relations between the two men will deteriorate over the Ivorian crisis. In 2002, Laurent Gbagbo asked France to repel the advance of rebels from the North, in the name of defense agreements that bind the two countries. Paris will intervene, but without chasing the rebels of Côte d'Ivoire. In January 2003, during the Marcoussis meeting , Jacques Chirac and his foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, wrung Laurent Gbagbo's arm by forcing rebel ministers into his government.

The break dates from 2004. Laurent Gbagbo then wants to regain control of the north of Côte d'Ivoire. Jacques Chirac calls him to dissuade him. In vain: November 4th, an offensive is launched. Two days later, to everyone's surprise, Ivorian army planes bomb the French camp at Bouaké, killing nine soldiers. In retaliation, the Ivorian fleet is destroyed, by order of the Elysee. Nearly 8,000 French nationals are evacuated in a few days. Contacts between the two heads of state will be from there icy: France makes Gbagbo responsible for the death of his men, which the Ivorian head of state will deny, accusing Paris of having planned its overthrow.

The two men will keep a tooth to each other. " He never inspired me much confidence, " writes Jacques Chirac in his memoirs, which describes the former Ivorian president as someone " tortuous and manipulative ." Jacques Chirac also nicknamed him " the baker " for his ability to roll his opponents in the flour. In his, Laurent Gbagbo points to the ingratitude of Jacques Chirac, to whom he says he gave money for his 2002 campaign. The two men never reconciled.

It's a loved one that France loses ...

Reaction in Abidjan after the death of Jacques Chirac

26-09-2019 - By Pierre Pinto

The friend Bongo

Jacques Chirac's African policy will remain as that of friendships with a certain number of strong men, presidents, in the purest tradition of his political family, the Gaullists. Togolese Eyadéma, Cameroonian Biya or Gabonese Omar Bongo. Omar Bongo holds in the African course of Chirac a place apart, probably because France itself occupied a special place in the concerns of Omar Bongo.

Those who were able to enter the office of former President Omar Bongo, Libreville, said that the Dean of the "Françafrique" kept close to him the portraits of the various French presidents. The former Gabonese head of state, installed with the help of France at the end of 1967, had ended up becoming a sought-after and generous ally in the run for power in France. After the death of Omar Bongo, former president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing said on Europe 1 radio that he had helped finance the Chirac campaign in 1981.

Chirac and Bongo have long maintained close relations, inspired by the Gaullist heritage. On the issue of Congo-Brazzaville in particular, the two men played together the map of General Sassou-Nguesso against President Lissouba during the 1997 civil war. The Gabonese unpacking of the Elf affair cast a shadow over this friendship, but Chirac will be among the first to come to Libreville after the death of the old head of state. This will be his last trip to Africa.

President Jacques Chirac (g) alongside Presidents J. Kabila (DRC), Amadou Toumani Touré (Mali), B. Compaoré (Burkina Faso), Idriss Déby (Chad) at the funeral of Omar Bongo, Libreville, 16 June 2009. © ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP

The " Françafrique " in Togo

In Togo, he was also the personal friend of former dictator Gnassingbe Eyadéma, who ruled this country in West Africa for 38 years, from 1967 until his death in 2005, and to whom succeeded his son Faure Gnassingbé.

For Gnassingbe Eyadema's former prime minister, Gabriel Agbeyome Kodjo, Jacques Chirac was a great French politician who had a vision for Africa. An appreciation very little shared in the opposition.

For Brigitte Adjamagbo-Johnson, it is the friend who used to congratulate Eyadema before the proclamation of the results of the presidential elections. François Kampatib says: Jacques Chirac is the one who contributed most to the stuttering of democracy in Togo. Paul Dodji Apevon pushes the nail, it is the one who best printed the "Françafrique".

A skewer of African leaders is considered "close": Abdou Diouf of Senegal, Paul Biya of Cameroon, Denis Sassou-Nguesso of Congo-Brazzaville or Lansana Conte of Guinea. But Africa will not be summed up, under Jacques Chirac, the only square. The president will not hesitate to travel to South Africa and Nigeria, the English-speaking giants in Angola and Mozambique, the Portuguese-speaking giants, opening up new horizons and new markets for France.

It is true that he is a great man, a great president, a great loss for France but I deplore the Françafrique network that he has well fed.

A shared sentiment in Togolese opinion

27-09-2019 - By Peter Dogbe

    On the same subject

    Jacques Chirac, his interventions and famous phrases

    Jacques Chirac and Africa: a strong, but sometimes paternalistic vision

    Abroad, Jacques Chirac "marked the consciences"