Monday, June 8, 2009

How Africans perceive France

Our group of visiting journalists includes: Vincent Nkeshimana, Corneille Libaruta both from the Republic of Burundi. Tshieke Bukassa and Malou Mbela from DR Congo. Tabu Butagira and Raymond Baguma from Uganda.

In the photo with the journalists is Mme Louise Avon, the ambassador incharge of the mission on the Improvement of the France-Africa Summits

This morning, our first visit was to the French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs. Monsieur Faycal BEY, the interpreter picked us from the hotel at 09:10hrs for the first meeting with Monsieur Roman NADAL, sous-directeur de la presse.

French officials interested themselves in knowing the Africans' perception of France. And here were some of the candid views from the publics which the journalists had:

  • The average DR Congo national thinks that every French speaker on the streets is from Belgium. To the public, the French speakers from France only interact at a higher level.
  • France is known for its culture, organising and partaking in activities such as the EU day as well as celebrations of the July 14th National Day. In Uganda, this has demystified officialdom and related France to the ordinary public.
  • France supports programmes in education, health, water and sanitation in Uganda, Burundi.
  • France is a great footballing nation. But rarely does France come out openly to comment on African issues in areas such as political development, as US and UK have often done.
  • France is perceived as having complicity in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The consequent arrest of a Rwandan government official has not made the situation better. This is because Rwanda shares close cultural and historical ties with Uganda despite previous differences between the two Presidents. The ruling RPF in Rwanda was born in Uganda.
  • All in all, there is largely a disconnect between ordinary Africans in Burundi, Uganda and DR Congo, with France.

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