Africa Notes: France and Africa: A 1996 Update - December 1996
December 1, 1996
Events in late 1996 have brought into relief a rivalry between the two most significant external players in African affairs. France and the United States, allies in every major conflict for over 200 years, are today by many accounts battling each other for influence on the continent. No longer eclipsed by cold war strategy, this rivalry has gently simmered throughout the 1990s. It bubbled to the surface, however, during U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher's October 1996 visit to Africa, when he traded rhetorical potshots with French officials over France's domineering role in its former African colonies.
One month later, France took the lead in resisting U.S. attempts to deny a second term to UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, and each government was accusing the other of delaying an international response to the crisis in eastern Zaire. It appeared that the erstwhile allies could not agree on anything.