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French president renews ties with third Gabon visit

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2010-02-24

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is visiting Gabon on Wednesday, where he will table new military accords and offer his tacit blessing on the contested government of Ali Bongo Ondimba.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy made his third visit to Gabon in as many years on Wednesday, where he is expected to meet with President Ali Bongo Ondimba, as well as opposition parties.

The 24-hour visit is the first leg of an African tour that will also take Sarkozy to Rwanda, in an effort to reconcile relations tainted since the 1994 genocide in the country.

Eight months after the death of former Gabonese president Omar Bongo, Paris wants to renew the relationship with its former colony, and to impart its tacit blessing on Bongo's son Ali, who inherited the presidency of his father.

A stop at the grave of the late Omar Bongo is the first event on the French president’s schedule.

Sarkozy is also expected to sign a new military cooperation agreement, to replace an accord dating from the 1960s.

“The new military accords, whereby France would keep its military bases in Libreville – the only French bases on the Atlantic coast of Africa — are the key to the visit,” says FRANCE 24’s Marc Perelman, who is following Sarkozy on his African tour.

Listening to the opposition

Gabon’s opposition parties have refused to accept the official outcome of the August 2009 elections, and condemned Paris for its swift recognition of the new Bongo government.

Nevertheless, the National Union, one of two main opposition coalitions, and several other opposition parties, will meet the French president on Wednesday, and present a joint document detailing their criticism of Ali Bongo.

“They will clearly complain about what happened during the election, but also what has happened since the elections,” says Perelman. “They claim that civil liberties have been restrained, media has been shut down and that democracy in regressing in Gabon.”

Date created : 2010-02-24

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