France: Hollande in…Sarkozy out! What it means for Africa

François Hollande has beaten Nicholas Sarkozy in a run-off to win the French presidential election on Sunday 6 May 2012. Hollande captured more than 51 percent of the votes as opposed to Sarkozy’s 48.1 percent. Sarkozy has held the French presidency since 2007. Hollande now becomes France’s new president.

François Hollande is 57 year old, the same age as Nicholas Sarkozy. Hollande’s victory means France will have its first Socialist president since Francois Mitterrand who led France from 1981 to 1995. In voting Sarkozy out of office, French voters expressed their discontent over Europe’s debt crisis. Hollande is expected to be inaugurated later this month.

But a question that Francophone Africa is eager to answer is how the reign of Hollande will be different from that of Sarkozy. Sarkozy was disliked in many quarters within Africa or by many Africans around the world. Some saw him as anti-immigration which of course affects Africans.

But one of the low points in Sarkozy’s relation with Africa was his attack on Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi. It should be noted that rightly or wrongly, informed or uninformed, many Africans had an admiration for Muammar Gadhafi. The case of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire also stands out. Nicholas Sarkozy has been accused for drastically influencing and meddling in the politics of Côte d’Ivoire.

It was during Sarkozy’s term that the current president of Togo Faure Gnassingbé (son of the former president of Togo Gnassingbé Eyadéma) was crowned president despite mass disapproval by the Togolese. In a similar situation, Sarkozy was accused of supporting the takeover of the presidency of Gabon by Ali-Ben Bongo Ondimba, son of the late president Omar Bongo.

Africans became worried that France was supporting children of dictators to take over after their fathers. Even if it had existed before, many Africans spoken to feel it was more pronounced during the term of Nicholas Sarkozy based on the influence France has over her colonies.

With the emergence of a new president in François Hollande, a socialist president, experts believe French policy on Africa will remain the same. It is not yet clear whether Mr. Hollande will adopt a slightly different attitude towards Africa.

If anything, Mr. Hollande was one of those who accused Nicholas Sarkozy for taking money from Muammar Gadhafi to fund his last campaign. This is exactly one of the main reasons many Africans did not trust Sarkozy. They feel he seriously betrayed and exploited Gadhafi. The trust factor has been an issue since then in the minds of Africans. In short, Nicholas Sarkozy was not trusted by Africans and many would not miss him.

It is yet to be seen how President elect François Hollande will approach Africa.