How Paris is benefiting from the political crisis

France is taking advantage of tensions between Kinshasa and Brussels to further its interests

How Paris is benefiting from the political crisis

Congo-k and EU relations

Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo-Kinshasa) is currently the largest recipient of EU support amongst the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (Photo: Andrew Willis)

March 21, 2018 – Optimistic about its business prospects in the country, France is taking advantage of tensions between Kinshasa and Brussels to further its interests.

Belgium, which is on very frosty terms with Kinshasa after severely criticising Joseph Kabila’s manoeuvres to secure a long-term grip on power, is now also at odds with Paris over its stance on the issue. France is accused of softening its position on the political crisis that Congo-K has been experiencing for several months due to its promising business prospects in the country.

According to our information, the African director at the Belgian foreign ministry, Jozef Smets, conveyed his ‘frustration’ to his French counterpart Remi Marechaux, the head of the Direction Afrique et Ocean Indien (DAOI), during a meeting on 8 February at the French foreign ministry. This request for greater fair play on the part of Paris was prompted by France blocking a number of statements by the European Commission on the situation in Congo-K.

Although its level of police and military cooperation is limited, France has come in for strong criticism over its ambivalent attitude towards Kabila’s regime, particularly after the demonstrations on 31 December that left some dozen people dead. These tensions come at a time when Paris is banking more than ever on Congo-K’s business potential, especially in the oil and energy sectors.

For the last eight years, Total has been operating block III at Graben Albertine, located in the Lake Albert area in the north-eastern province of Ituri. According to Africa Energy Intelligence, this block offers new prospects for the French oil company, which is operating in partnership with South Africa’s Efora Energy and Dig Oil as well as with the Congolese state. The oil major continues to be interested in Blocks I and II as well, which are owned by a company belonging to the Israeli businessman Dan Gertler, whose activities are currently being scrutinised by the US treasury department.
Source: WAN, March 21, 2018
Description of source: WAN covers the western French-speaking part of Africa and decrypts political and business events in this part of the world. Country of origin: France
© Copyright 2018 Indigo Publications. All Rights Reserved.

DR Congo asks Belgium to close consulates in east

Text of report by DR Congo’s UN-sponsored Radio Okapi on February 06, 2018

[Presenter] There has been another consequence of the decision taken by the government of the DR Congo against Belgium. The civil aviation authority has urged Brussels airlines to reduce the number of its flights to [DR] Congo Kinshasa from seven to four starting this Monday 5 February. The decision is contained in a letter addressed to the representative of Brussels airlines in the DR Congo. Let us now listen to the report filed by Ascaint Zigbya Tayoro.

[Tayoro] In the letter, the civil aviation authority says it took the decision due to lack of reciprocity in the exploitation of international aerial services between the DR Congo and the Kingdom of Belgium. Consequently, it urges the management of Brussels airlines to, without further delay, submit to it a new aerial exploitation program for approval. This decision has prompted reactions from analysts. By sanctioning Brussels airlines, do DR Congo authorities know that 100 per cent of the company belongs to German national Ruth Panda [ phonetic] who bought it from Belgian authorities or not?, One wonders. Visibly, the conflict between DR Congo and Belgium has only gotten worse since the Belgian government openly condemned violent crackdown on peaceful demonstrations in the country.

The two parties have continued to increase restrictive measures against each other. Before the reduction in the number of flights of Brussels airlines, the DR Congo authorities decided to close Schengen House in Kinshasa in a bid to force the Belgian government to review its measures regarding humanitarian aid now being channeled through nongovernmental organisations and not through the DR Congo government. A statement published by Schengen House announced its closure due to reasons beyond its control. The public will be informed of plans to return passports that were introduced [for visa application] up to 30 January, says the communique.

[Presenter] We have just learnt that the Democratic Republic of Congo has decided to close its consulate in Anvers and calls on Belgium to close its consular representations in Goma [Nord Kivu Province] and in Lubumbashi, Haut Katanga Province.
Source: Radio Okapi (Goma) in French 1700 gmt, February 06, 2018
© 2018 The British Broadcasting Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

Ali Bongo re-configures his sub-regional alliances

February 07, 2018 – The August 2016 presidential election in Gabon prompted the isolation of Libreville in Central Africa. Ali Bongo has reduced his dealings with neighbouring countries suspected of giving discreet support to his main opponent, Jean Ping, and has also been at pains to sideline from his entourage any advisers or relatives who were pushing for the country to remain on good terms with its neighbours, in particular Congo-B. Under Omar Bongo, these two countries, which share 1,900 km of common border, cooperated in many domains. As soon as he arrived in power in 2009, Ali Bongo decided to realign and reinvigorate his foreign policy after feeling impeded by his neighbouring counterparts, the majority of whom have been in power for several decades. Little interested in the situation in Cameroon, Chad or Equatorial Guinea, the Gabonese president prefers to glean his strategic intelligence through Moroccan and French networks.

Mohammed VI has been one of his most valued advocates in trying to persuade Paris and African capitals to recognise the result of the most recent presidential election. In return, Ali Bongo has been facilitating the growth of Morocco’s business interests in the country, led by companies such as Maroc Telecom, Attijariwafa Bank and Managem. Another counterpart whom the Gabonese president is on good terms with is Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, who on 29 January became the chair of the African Union. Since 2009, Gabon has strengthened relations with Kigali and increased exchanges between the two countries with the arrival of the airline RwandAir and of Rwandan experts to assist in Libreville. The Gabonese president tends to have more rewarding relationships with his west African counterparts: Togo’s Faure Gnassingbe, Mali’s Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and Senegal’s Macky Sall.
Source: WAN, February 07, 2018
Description of source: WAN covers the western French-speaking part of Africa and decrypts political and business events in this part of the world. Country of origin: France
© Copyright 2018 Indigo Publications. All Rights Reserved.

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