Secretive French Office Wields Power in Africa

New regime may sever link to colonial past
By Sam Gale Rosen,  Newser Staff
Posted May 16, 2007 9:45 AM CDT
New French President Nicolas Sarkozy waves from his car, center, as his convoy drives down the Champs Elysees, in Paris, Wednesday May 16, 2007. Sarkozy took over from fellow conservative and one-time...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – The election of Nicolas Sarkozy could end the influence of the "African Cell," a tiny French government office that exerts great power in Africa. Since 1958, the Cell has used the French military to install and protect African leaders it considers friendly, opening it to charges that it supports nondemocratic regimes, the Journal reports.

The three-person office reports only to the president. France's controversial continuing involvement in Africa's affairs hampers progress, say critics, and backing off could foster democracy and economic growth. Sarkozy, who took office today, has vowed to change the country's relationship with its onetime colonies but has not offered many specifics—beyond ending the Cell's military operations.