Mr Stephane Gompertz, Dr Sue Onslow (chair)
17 May 2011, 6:30pm, KSW.G1 (20 Kingsway Building)
The recent momentous events in Cote d'Ivoire and President Sarkozy's assertive stance on Libya's political turmoil, and active role in instituting the No-Fly Zone, have brought French policy and geo-political interests in Africa back into the limelight. Debates in France and the international press have questioned whether France is 'returning to its colonial reflexes', and pointing to France's troop presence in Africa and close business, political, linguistic and personal ties. Similarly, there have been calls in France that resources would be better directed towards emerging economies in Asia than in Africa. In a wide ranging talk, Mr Stephane Gompertz discussed France's overall perspective, and consequent policy, towards African political transitions and upheaval, emphasizing geopolitical principles (with the guiding strategies of aid and pressure), real politik and pragmatism. He underlined French perceptions of the unlikelihood of similar youth organisation through social networks and IT access, socio-economic discontent and unemployment precipitating revolutions in sub-Saharan Africa as in the North African 'awakenings'. Mr Gompertz addressed questions on French policy and contribution to the resolution of the political stalemate in Cote d'Ivoire, Zimbabwe and political transitions (and the contrast with Kenyan developments), comparative developments in Gabon, Niger, Ethiopia, Madagascar and Djibouti, the place of humanitarian assistance and 'duty to protect' in France's role in instituting airstrikes and the no-fly zone in Libya. The seminar emphasised the Sarkozy government's appreciation of the contributions of the African Union and SADC to regional conflict resolution, whilst recognising institutional military capability limitations.
Mr Stephane Gompertz is a long-serving French diplomat with extensive experience in Northern Africa, and the Near East, Stephane served as Deputy Head of Mission at the French Embassy in London, and as Ambassador to Ethiopia. He is currently Head of Africa and the Indian Ocean desk, in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Paris.
Dr Sue Onslow is the Head of the LSE IDEAS Africa International Affairs Programme.
Room KSW.G1, Ground Floor, 20 Kingsway Building (London WC2B 6LH).