French President Nicolas Sarkozy further laid out Friday his vision of a new partnership with Africa, but part of his message drew an angry response from the head of the African Union Commission.
"I want to help Africa to develop and I want to speak frankly as I did yesterday in Dakar," Sarkozy told a press conference as he wrapped up a mini-tour of sub-Saharan Africa in Gabon.
"One cannot blame everything on colonisation... the corruption, the dictators, the genocides, that is not colonisation," Sarkozy said during a short visit to Libreville.
His comments were likely to further anger the head of the African Union Commission, Alpha Oumar Konare, who had already expressed his dismay at similar remarks Sarkozy made during his stop in Senegal.
"This speech was not the kind of break we were hoping for," Konare told Radio France Internationale, referring to Sarkozy's address to students at the University of Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar.
"It was not fundamentally new, in fact it reminded us of another age, especially his comments about peasants which I did not approve of."
As part of his speech in Dakar, Sarkozy had said: "The African peasant only knows the eternal renewal of time, rhythmed by the endless repetition of the same gestures and the same words.
"In this imaginary world where everything starts over and over again, there is no place for human adventure or for the idea of progress," the French president said.
Konare also took issue with Sarkozy's comments urging Africa not to dwell on its colonial past, the point the French president had sought to reiterate in his final speech of the trip in Libreville.
"Africa has been left behind largely because of it (colonialism), and that is a reality I am sure the president is aware of.... and which no one can deny," Konare said.
"It has nothing to do with repentance... I say so clearly: that is a page we will never rip out."
Sarkozy, who was welcomed in Gabon by Omar Bongo Ondimba, Africa's longest-serving president having been in power for 40 some years, also sought to justify France's tightening of immigration laws.
"France wants to help Africa to develop. But... there are 450 million young Africans under the age of 17, not all of them can come to Europe," he said.
"And more, if we take all your doctors, all your executives, all your engineers, all your technicians, how are you going to develop your economies?" he asked.
The French president told the students in Dakar on Thursday that it was time Africans faced up to their problems, including dictatorship and poverty, and pledged to support any efforts to change the continent's fortunes.
"Do you want to end the arbitrary corruption, violence? That money is invested instead of being embezzled. Do you want the rule of law?
"It is up to you to take the decision and if you decide so, France will be by your side like an unwavering friend," he said.
He proposed a "shared development, a common strategy in the face of globalisation ... to prepare for the advent of 'EurAfrica'".
Konare said that while he agreed with Sarkozy's appeal for young Africans to reject corruption, violence and nepotism, "young people are aware of that and many of them have been fighting these things for a long time."
"I am certain that the president wants a clean break ... I believe that to help him make that change, he needs to get to know Africa better and we are ready to help him do so."
French Socialist Party national secretary Faouzi Lamdaoui said Thursday that Sarkozy was giving Africans "lessons in development," while "stealing Africa's best minds through the policy of selective immigration."
"When Sarkozy is in Dakar, he becomes a friend of the Africans, when he is in Paris he stigmatises and expels them," Lamdaoui said.
Sarkozy left Gabon, the final stop of his three-country African tour which also took in Libya, late Friday for France where he was expected Saturday morning, diplomats said.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 29 Temmuz 2007, 12:21