14 Dec 2018 - 15 Dec 2018 All day SG2 and S3, Alison Richard Building


Please email events@crassh.cam.ac.uk if you have any questions about this event.



Stefano Recchia (University of Cambridge)



France is the only European country that still regularly deploys its military forces on combat missions to Sub-Saharan Africa (whether in Mali, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, or the Central African Republic). While French government officials justify these military interventions as contributions to peacekeeping and regional stabilization within a United Nations framework, critics argue that France uses its continuing military presence to wield political influence and maintain its former African colonies in a subaltern relationship to Paris. This conference will bring together historians, political scientists, and policy experts for a high-level discussion of related questions. 

Once France lost its African colonies in the 1960s, its continued ability to project military power on the continent and influence political events there remained central to its self-perception and international recognition as a great power. After the end of the Cold War, however, France’s heavy-handed interference in its former African colonies was increasingly questioned (both internationally and domestically), as norms on military intervention changed, the burden on French taxpayers resulting from these military operations became difficult to justify, and several African countries experienced a period of often turbulent transitions towards democracy. The traumatic experience of Rwanda, in particular, where the French military had supported a radical Hutu regime that carried out a genocide in 1994, threatened to undermine France’s influence on the continent and thus one of the key pillars of France’s great-power status. Since the mid-1990s, France’s Africa policy has been less overtly neo-colonial, emphasizing peacebuilding and local empowerment, as well as multilateral cooperation through the United Nations and the European Union. Conference participants will zero in on the following question: Have recent changes in France’s Africa policy been primarily cosmetic, or have French foreign policy elites instead fundamentally rethought their country’s role in Africa, increasingly abandoning former neo-colonial relationships in favour of more legitimate multilateral partnerships?



Supported by the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), and the European Commission (Marie Curie Career Integration Grant).


Day 1 - Friday 14 December
13.45 - 14.15


14.15 - 14.30

Welcome and Introduction

Stefano Recchia (University of Cambridge)

14.30 - 16.15

Panel 1: France as arbiter of African regime survival? Historical perspectives 

Discussant: Tony Chafer (University of Portsmouth)


Marco Wyss (Lancaster University)

'Neo-Colonial Collusion? France and Regime Security in Côte d’Ivoire'


Nathaniel Powell (King’s College London)

'From Coronation to Coup d'état: The Overthrow of Jean-Bedel Bokassa and its Legacy'

16.15 - 16.45


16.45 - 18.15


Jean-Marc de la Sablière (former chief diplomatic adviser to President Chirac and Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations)

'France’s military contribution to peace and security in Africa since the 1980s: necessities and constraints'

Day 2 - Saturday 15 December
9.00 - 10.45

Panel 2: The Rwanda crisis and its aftermath

Discussant: Adrian Treacher (University of Sussex)


Catherine Gegout (University of Nottingham)

'Evaluating the Responsibility of France in Comparison with that of other International Actors in Rwanda in the Early 1990s'


Stefano Recchia (University of Cambridge)

'Multilateral intervention as status validation: France in Africa since the 1990s'

10.45 - 11.15


11.15 - 13.00

Panel 3: Multilateral legitimation strategies – the UNSC and ad-hoc coalitions

Discussant: Thierry Tardy (NATO Defence College, Rome) 


Rachel Utley (University of Leeds)

'French Military Interventions in Africa: Opportunities, Limits and Outcomes in the UN Security Council'


Tony Chafer (University of Portsmouth)

'In Search of Legitimacy? France’s Evolving Approach to Military Intervention in Africa'

13.00 - 14.30


14.30 - 16.15

Panel 4: What motivates France’s African interventions today?

Discussant: Olivier Schmitt (University of Southern Denmark)


Marina Henke (Northwestern University)

'L’état c’est moi? Societal preferences and pressures for French military interventions'


Benedikt Erforth (Sciences Po Paris)

'The gendarme that won’t retire: Multilateral security partnerships and French interests in the Sahel'

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