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Why Ukraine Is Turning To France For Help In Africa — And How That Could Backfire

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba is in Paris seeking help to convince Africa to abandon its wait-and-see attitude, which benefits Russia. It's an extraordinary illustration of how Africa is singularly focused on emancipating itself from its former colonizers.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba stands in a crowd infront of towering machinery

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba comments on the energy system of Ukraine and international support after Russian strikes.

Pierre Haski


PARIS — The African continent and its 54 states lie at the heart of the world's current restructuring. Courted for its raw materials, Africa has become one of the main arenas for global power struggles — with votes at the UN scrutinized for what they may say about different countries' alignments.

France has been shaken in its former colonial stomping grounds in French-speaking Africa, with French President Emmanuel Macron speaking firmly Monday in response to the crisis that erupted with the military coup in Niger. But this is just one example of the great geopolitical chess match being played out in Africa.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba is in Paris on Tuesday, as guest of honor at the annual French Ambassadors' Conference. He will be attending an unprecedented meeting with all the French ambassadors to Africa. The aim: to help Ukraine develop its message towards Africa, to convince it to abandon its wait-and-see attitude, which benefits Russia.

It's an extraordinary move, which illustrates the difficulty of dealing with an Africa that wants to emancipate itself from the tutelage of its former colonizers, at the risk of sacrificing state sovereignty in the process.

France Afrique

It's a predicament France knows all too well: in his speech to the French ambassadors gathered in Paris on Monday, Macron denounced "the baroque alliance of pseudo-panafricanists and new imperialists. It's a madhouse!"

It's doubtful that this indignation will help, as France is struggling in its relations with Africa. Since his election in 2017, Macron has been trying to forge a renewed relationship with the continent, "without paternalism or weakness" as he put it yesterday. But he is coming up against the collapse of state structures in the Sahel region of north-central Africa, where nations are turning against the former colonizer. The renewal of Paris' African policy has been thwarted by this turnaround.

Repeated coups d'état in the Sahel have put France on the defensive. By refusing to withdraw the French ambassador in Niamey, whose departure the Niger junta is demanding, the President is upholding a position of principle that clashes with fiercely divergent African opinion.

French ambassador to Niger Sylvain Itt\u00e9 makes a speech from a podium

French ambassador to Niger Sylvain Itté during in the inauguration ceremony of the Gorou Banda solar power plant that France helped finance.

Sylvain Itté/Twitter

Rupture risk

Paris is taking refuge behind the Community of West African States (Ecowas), whose leaders fear this contagion of coups. But it is not certain that Ecowas has the means to restore constitutional order in Niger, and armed intervention would be a catastrophe.

We need to be lucid, without being excessively pessimistic

This impasse, into which rush influence-hungry powers such as Russia, contributes to the deterioration of international order. And, as Macron underlined yesterday, it "runs the risk of weakening the West, and Europe in particular. We need to be lucid, without being excessively pessimistic."

The war in Ukraine is obviously the issue that is shaping the new balance of power. But Africa weighs heavily in this conflict with its global impact. A rupture is not in the interests of France and Europe, nor of Africa, which is in need of allies for its development. Avoiding a definitive break must be a top priority for all.

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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

Here's Why Iran Might End Up Turning Its Back On Hamas

Iran's revolutionary regime insists it wants Israel destroyed and has threatened a regional war, but its actions are ambivalent, suggesting it may fear a regional war that would hasten its demise. As a result, it may decide to stop supporting Hamas in Gaza.

photo of women holding iranian and palestinian flags and photo of supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei

At a pro-Palestinian rally in Tehran on Nov. 4.

Rouzbeh Fouladi/ZUMA
Hamed Mohammadi

Updated Nov. 14, 2023 at 11:05 p.m.


Urban warfare is an ugly mess even for high-tech armies, yet after weeks of bombing Hamas targets, Israel believed it had no choice but to invade Gaza and expose its troops to just this type of fighting. It is the only way of flushing out Hamas, it says, which has decided to fight Israel amid the wreckage of Gazan homes, schools and clinics.

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Meanwhile, attacks on U.S. forces in the Middle East by similar militias working in coordination with the Iranian regime have become a headache for the Biden administration, which is seen by some as taking a soft line with the Tehran. The administration insists there is no hard evidence yet of Iranian involvement in Hamas's attack on Israel on October 7, though it has hardened its tone, warning Tehran not to pour "fuel on fire."

As for the European Union, it remains cautious about listing the Iranian Revolutionary Guards as terrorists, even if in September the NATO parliamentary assembly advised members of the alliance to list them as such and aid the democratic aspirations of ordinary Iranians.

Whatever the details, the war in Gaza is intimately connected to the Iranian regime and its modus operandi.

Its officials have warned that the Gaza offensive, if continued, would open new fronts against Israel. The regime's foreign minister, Hussein Amirabdullahian, vowed Gaza would become an Israeli "graveyard" if its troops invaded, while the head of the Revolutionary guards, Hussein Salami, compared the strip to a "dragon" that would "devour" the invaders.

But so far we have seen nothing of Iran's more dramatic threats, made soon after the October attack, including the West Bank joining with Gaza or the Lebanese Hezbollah firing off 150,000 rockets. Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, while insisting Iran had nothing to do with the Hamas assault, urged regional states to starve Israel of fuel. That too has yet to happen.

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