Jacques Foccart

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For the comic superhero, see Invisible Kid (Jacques Foccart).

Jacques Foccart (31 August 1913 – 19 March 1997) was a chief adviser for the government of France on African policy as well as the co-founder of the Gaullist Service d'Action Civique (SAC) in 1959 with Charles Pasqua, which specialized in covert operations in Africa.

From 1960 to 1974, he was the President of France's chief of staff for African and Madagascar matters for both Charles de Gaulle and Georges Pompidou. Foccart played such an important role in French policies in Africa, that after de Gaulle, he was seen as the most influential man of the Fifth Republic. But through SAC, he was considered to be involved in various coups d'état in Africa during the 1960s. Nevertheless Foccart retained his functions during Georges Pompidou's presidency (1969–74)

In 1974 Valéry Giscard d'Estaing replaced Foccart with the young deputy whom he had himself trained. He was then rehabilitated in 1986 by the new Prime minister Jacques Chirac as an adviser on African affairs for the two years of "cohabitation" with socialist president François Mitterrand. When Chirac finally gained the presidency in 1995, the 81-year-old Foccart was brought back to the Elysée palace as an advisor. He died in 1997. According to The National Interest review, "Foccart was said to have been telephoning African personalities on the subject of Zaire right up to the week before his death."

Before the war[edit]

Jacques Foccart was born in Ambrières, in the Mayenne département, to a family of white planters from the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe. During World War II, he represented de Gaulle and the Resistance in the Mayenne département, which led to him becoming secretary general of the Rally of the French People (RPF) during the Fourth Republic (1946–1958).

The decolonization[edit]

Further information: Decolonization

Foccart was an initiator of what would become known as the Françafrique, a term borrowed from Félix Houphouët-Boigny, president of Côte d'Ivoire, by François-Xavier Verschave. This expression would survive until François Mitterrand's 1981 election and the first socialist government of the Fifth Republic (founded in 1958), in particular with Mitterrand's son, Jean-Christophe, nicknamed "Papamadi" ("Papa-told-me").

According to the US conservative review National Interest, Jacques Foccart played "an essential role" in the negotiation of the Cooperation accords with the newly independent African states, former members of the French Community created in 1958. These accords involved the sectors of finance and economy, culture and education, and the military. There were initially eleven countries involved: Mauritania, Senegal, Cote d'Ivoire, Dahomey (now Benin), Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso), Niger, Chad, Gabon, Central African Republic, Congo-Brazzaville, and Madagascar. Togo and Cameroon, former UN Trust Territories, as well as, later on, Mali and the former Belgian territories (Ruanda-Urundi, now Rwanda and Burundi, and Congo-Kinshasa), together with some of the ex-Portuguese territories, and Comoros and Djibouti, which had also been under French rule for many years but became independent in the 1970s, were also later included.

The whole ensemble was put under a new Ministry of Cooperation, created in 1961, separate from the Ministry for Overseas Departments and Territories (known as the DOM-TOM) that had previously run them all. The National Interest review asserts that this "Cooperation Ministry, focal point of the new evolving French system in Africa, regarded Foccart both as their "guarantor" and their advocate with de Gaulle. If the General had conceived the apparatus (though in fact some of it simply happened by improvisation), Foccart was the machine minder." [1]

Close to Zaire dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, he was, in 1967, an important actor in the French support of the Biafran secession, through the use of mercenaries.

National Interest 's review of his biography goes on with Foccart's admission that the French secret services eliminated the Cameroonian Marxist leader Félix-Roland Moumié in 1960. Furthermore, it quotes "some reports" which "suggested that Foccart and Houphouët spoke on the phone every Wednesday, and there is no doubt that he considered the Ivoirian leader the African centerpiece of his network. They operated together on a number of issues. Interventions such as that in Gabon in 1964 and Chad in 1969 were encouraged by the Foccart-Houphouet tandem. The most significant collaboration between Foccart and Houphouet was the way they tried to persuade de Gaulle to back the Biafran secession from Nigeria in 1967. Despite the pressures they exerted, however, de Gaulle refused to recognize Biafra, and, in retrospect, so guarded and elliptical are some of Foccart's statements that one cannot be sure what he really wanted or expected from de Gaulle at the time."

Jacques Foccart remained in service under Georges Pompidou's presidency (1969–1974). In 1972, Mongo Beti's Cruel hand on Cameroon, autopsy of a decolonization was censored upon its publication by François Maspero by the Ministry of the Interior Raymond Marcellin on the request, brought forward by Jacques Foccart, of the Cameroon government, represented in Paris by the ambassador Ferdinand Oyono.

Foccart was then replaced by president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing (1974–81) with René Journiac, whom he had trained himself. According to National Interest, he was critical of two special operations carried on under Giscard d'Estaing: the fiasco of the mercenary landing in Benin in January 1977 (with which he denies having had any connection, and would not have supported because it was badly conceived and executed); and "Operation Barracuda", the military intervention that deposed Emperor Bokassa in September 1979.

Foccart was then rehabilitated in 1986 by new Premier Chirac as an adviser on African affairs for the two years of the "cohabitation". When Chirac finally made it to the presidency in 1995, Foccart was brought back to the Elysée at the age of eighty-one, in the main because he still had remarkable contacts with African leaders such as President Omar Bongo of Gabon. He would criticize the devaluation of the CFA franc in January 1994 under Balladur's government, a month after Houphouët-Boigny's death.

Domestic activities[edit]

However, his role was not limited to Africa, as he was also charged by De Gaulle with the secret services and with the following of the elections, in particular concerning the choice of the candidates during the 1960s. The SAC (Service d'Action Civique) helped him for those shady missions. Foccart also admitted in Foccart Parle that relations with the SDECE intelligence agency were his concerns. National Interest observes that "His biographer's claim that General de Gaulle asked Foccart to reorganize the SDECE (in view of the tainting of both the armed forces and the intelligence agencies by the movement for Algerie Francaise) is indirectly confirmed, but there is not a clear picture of the organization of the barbouzes."

With François de Grossouvre, Jacques Foccart also helped to create the Department Protection Security (DPS), security organization of the far-right Front National party led by Jean-Marie Le Pen.

1990s[edit]

In 1995, Jacques Foccart was part of president Jacques Chirac's visit to Morocco, Senegal, Côte d'Ivoire and Gabon, all countries led by friends of the Françafrique.

Such had been his influence on French colonial and post colonial policy that when he died on March 19, 1997, "For those involved with what has come to be known nowadays as "Françafrique", denoting the special French sphere of influence in Africa, many, along with Albert Bourgi of Jeune Afrique, saw Foccart's death as 'the end of an epoch.' "[1]

The publication of his memoirs under the format of interviews at the end of his life, and the Journal de l'Elysée also published, in which, starting from 1965, Jacques Foccart transcribed his daily meetings with De Gaulle, have proved an invaluable resource for the knowledge of French policies in Africa.

Furthermore, at his trial in 2006, mercenary Bob Denard, who was tried for his 1995 coup d'état in Comoros, alleged that Foccart had supported him.[2]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Pierre Péan L'Homme de l'Ombre (Man of the Shadows) Fayard, (1990)
    • Affaires Africaines (African Business), Fayard, (1983)
  • Jacques Foccart, Foccart parle, interviews with Philippe Gaillard, Fayard - Jeune Afrique
  • Jacques Foccart, Journal de l'Élysée, Fayard - Jeune Afrique
    • tome 1 : Tous les soirs avec de Gaulle (1965-1967), 1997, 813 pp. ISBN 2-213-59565-8
    • tome 2 : Le Général en mai (1968-1969), 1998, ISBN 2-213-60057-0
    • tome 3 : Dans les bottes du Général, (1969–1971), 1999, 787 pp., ISBN 2-213-60316-2
    • tome 4 : La France pompidolienne (1971-1972), 2000, ISBN 2-213-60580-7
    • tome 5 : La Fin du gaullisme (1973-1974), 2001
  • Jean-François Miniac, Les grandes affaires criminelles de l'Orne, de Borée, (2008). ( about Emile Buffon, François Van Aerden and Foccart in Orne during the war.)

Les Bicyclettes de Belsize.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Kaye Whiteman The man who ran Francafrique - French politician Jacques Foccart's role in France's colonization of Africa under the leadership of Charles de Gaulle - Obituary in The National Interest, Fall, 1997
  2. ^ (French) "Putsch aux Comores : cinq ans de prison requis contre Bob Denard". Le Monde. March 9, 2006. 

See also[edit]