French Intelligence and r olicitical Networks in Africa ( 1958-197


Jacques Foccart is known to be President Charles de Gaulle's secret counsellor, and one of the most influent people of the French 5th Republic.

Responsible for African affairs for the President, he was said to head influent networks in French black Africa.

Those networks went from Dakar and Abidjan to Libreville, to expand sometimes out of the former French colonies (such as in Belgian Congo after 1960, from the Katanga crisis to President Mobutu).

Foccart's political strength relied on intelligence.

Our point is to understand the links between French institutions and those networks in the field, in order to define Foccart's strategy for French influence in its former colonies.

This investigation is based on official and unofficial archives, memones, interviews and investigations in the field.

1. Jacques Foccart : from Resistance to the Elysee (Residence and Office of the French president)

2. French presidential African Office

3. Intelligence Networks in the African field


© Jean-Pierre Bat, 2009


Born in 1913, Foccart's destiny began with the WWII. Before 1939, nothing led this business man (import-export) to a political involvement with general de Gaulle.

Foccart: local ch ief of Resistance (1942-1944)

When the 3rd Republic collapsed in France (June and July 1940), Foccart left the French Air Force as a bare sergeant.

However, he decided not to resign and to keep on fighting the Germans. He did not hear the "Appeal of June 18" (London, 18th June 1940), but he always said he considered the Resistance to the third Reich as « his duty as a French citizen. »

He stayed in France and, under a business cover, organized his black network with a friend: Leguerney (this man died under German bullets to save Foccart's life, Foccart always kept his widow under his protection, up to his death).

His black network used to deal with intelligence and black operation in western France, between Britain and Normandy.

In 1943 he joined as a local Resistance leader in Mayenne the French Resistance Office in London: BCRA, Bureau Central de Renseignements et d'Action - Central Office for Intelligence and Action. He's known as « Binot », his code name.

In 1944, he took part of the « Turtle operation », the goal of which was to break German organization against D-Day.

At the Liberation of France, he joined the French Special Forces, trained by British Special Air Service (SAS) in Normandy, to become a Jedhburg ...

De Gaulle'sfirst supporter (1947-1958)

He met General Charles de Gaulle at the end of the summer 1945. Foccart is one of his first "companion", meaning supporter (de Gaulle's supporters are called companions as French communists call themselves camarades).

When de Gaulle retired from public affairs in January 1946, Foccart founded the Gaullist official party in 1947 to prepare the General's political return: RPF, Rassemblement du Peuple francais - RFP, Rally of the French People.

F occart was in charge of overseas questions since 1949: here came his attraction for Africa. He founded his first political network, based on companions in every colony.

When de Gaulle retired from this party in 1953, Foccart became number 2 of the party (de Gaulle remaining obviously an absent number 1( Between 1953 to

1 Fondation Charles de Gaulle, archives of RPF. BR 608-613, Foccart's files, communication with MP and political personalities. BR 661-662, French Union, French Western Africa (AOF). BR 663, French Union, French Central Africa (AEF) BR 664-692, communication with RPF companions in French colonial Africa. Those private documents are kept by the Foundation for de Gaulle's memory, which is located 5, rue de Solferino in Paris, at the very place of the RPF headquarters from 1947 to 1958. The library takes place in the


© Jean-Pierre Bat, 2009

1958, Foccart was the last one to organize the mouvement, as he was sure the 4th Republic was to collapse sooner or later (and, to Foccart, the sooner, the better). His thought was to gather all the supporters of de Gaulle in this party, to call him back to power in France as France Liberator, and therefore the most important politician in France. This strategy was considered as a continuation, from the "Appeal of June 18" (London, 18th June 1940) to the creation of a new Republic. This new Republic was to make a powerful President, who would be able to govern without a coalition of parties like the 4th Republic.

De Gaulle's time came in the Algerian crisis: unable to solve this colonial issue, the 4th Republic had to face a pronunciamiento, meaning a colonial insurrection in Algiers, mixing the Army and the white population. It occurred on 13th May 1958.

The new Republic (1958)

Foccart and other influent members of the RFP - such as Michel Debre, future Prime Minister - took part in the plot to call back General de Gaulle in order to solve the Algerian crisis. De Gaulle was nominated Prime minister in June 1958 by President Rene Coty, and elected as President of Republic on December 1958.

Meanwhile, in six months, de Gaulle reorganized French institutions to create the 5th Republic. One of his main issues was to solve the colonial problem. Obviously in Algeria, because a war was going on, but also in black Africa where the decolonisation programme only started two years before, in 1956, with Defferre blueprint law, which was to let African governments rule their territories, but staying under French flag.

Since June 1958 at Matignon, and on December 1958 at the Elysee, de Gaulle made Foccart, his closest companion from the Liberation, special counsellor for black Africa; his job was to lead those colonies to independence, under French influence3.

former big board room. Foccart, as the number 2 of the party, turns out to be extremely present in those archives, especially between 1953 and 1958.

2 Residence and office of the French Prime Minister

3 Gaillard, Philippe, Foccart parle, t. 1 et 2, Paris, Jeune Afrique/Fayard, 1995 et 1997. Foccart's life can be known by his memories. From 1993 to his death in 1997, Jacques Foccart and Philippe Gaillard, French reporter at Jeune Afrique, used to met to write the historical testimony of Foccart's activities. This point is really interesting because Gaillard and his newsweek Jeune Afrique are known to be enemies of Foccart's policy. The personality of the interviewer give a new enlightment to Foccart's testimony, and makes it a historical document.


© Jean-Pierre Bat, 2009


The French-African Community: a French Commonwealth?

The Community's goal was to give independence to French African colonies peacefully, on the contrary of Algeria. Its main idea was to harmonize the decolonisation program, to present at the UN fourteen new African Republics at the same time. This way, France could present at last a successful decolonisation, due to his will.

In 1958, Foccart established a threefold timetable to solve this issue.

First time: to give local power to African governments. He achieved Defferre 's blueprint law. After the general election for de Gaulle's return on September 1958, twelve Republics were created, according to Houphouet-Boigny's idea: each colonial territory became a Republic. Except the failure of the Federation of Mali, no political and geographical gathering had been allowed. Houphouet-Boigny's idea was called: "the balkanisation of French Africa". Foccart supported this scheme: that way, France had plenty of different supporters in Africa and at the UN. The main political network in Africa was revealed: Houphouet-Boigny's network based on a coalition of national parties all over French Africa, united under Houphouet-Boigny in the RDA, Rassemblement democratique africain - ADR, African Democratic Rally.

Second time: to enforce African governments to prevent them from weakening before independence. The design was to help ADR challengers to become national fathers of independence. Leon M'Ba in Gabon, Houphouet-Boigny in Ivory Coast were traditional leaders in 1958, but France had to help some of Houphouet-Boigny's allies, such as Hamani Diori in Niger, versus Djibo Bakary and his Sawaba party (connected to the French socialist Party): this was the mission of governor Don Jean Colombany, especially nominated by Foccart in 1958.

Third time: use an international affiliation to unify those Republics. The more RDA governments existed, the easier it was. It was the goal of de Gaulle's Community, since 1958 to 1960. On the contrary of the Commonwealth, the Community was dissolved when the African colonies became independent, because its existence was linked to the question of independence; after 1960, French influence was no longer institutional but tactical, thanks to Houphouet-Boigny's policy.

Le Secretariat general des Affaires africaines et malgaches: Presidential special Office for Africa and Madgascar

Succeeding to the Community Office, a special Office for Africa and Madagascar was promoted by Foccart at the Elysee. His issue was to allow a special


© Jean-Pierre Bat, 2009

and direct connection between the French Republic and its partners in Africa, called "France friends".

Its purpose was to keep French influence and give protection to its former colonies: there, French military interventions against any putsch, like in Libreville in 1964. The institutional link was - and is still - officially established by proper conventions for Cooperation, which were negotiated, at the independence, between France and each African Republic. Such a negotiation established a certain kind of domination relationship as senioritas between France and its African partners.

The former French colonies constitute the pre-carre, according to Vauban' s tactical definition, meaning the French restricted area in Africa. Neither western nor eastern nation was supposed to enter this pre-carre.

Foccart, as the head of this Office, remained more than ever the special counsellor of President de Gaulle for Africa 4. The latter was used to meet him every day, at the early evening as Foccart was officially the supreme keeper of French influence. This Office was ruled more like a cabinet than like a Ministry: Foccart tolerated no other control than de Gaulle's!

F occart' s Office has operated for 14 years, from 1960 to 1974, under President Charles de Gaulle and President Georges Pompidou: the traditional Gaullist time. To succeed in his mission, Foccart used official and black networks.

4 Foccart, being kept by both President de Gaulle and Pompidou for African affairs, gave this presidential office an extraordinary life, compared to other presidential institutions. Its competences are inherited from the former Colonial Ministry (named in 1946 Ministry for Over-seas France), whose archives are kept by National Archives in the colonial centre in Aix-en-Provence (southern France- Bouches du Rhone) - Archives nationales d'outre mer (ANOM) . .In 1974, Foccart took its files by himself, leaving nothing about his work to President Giscard's staff. At the beginning of the 1980's, Foccart gave his archives to the National Archives in Paris, as the memory of French State in Africa. This collection is composed by thousands of files, which are presented in the very order of the Office, just like in the 1960 and 1970. Those presidential files were made to give an introduction of the political, economical, social and military situation of every African country from the pre-carre, in order to offer President de Gaulle all the solutions to save French influence in Africa, and to protect his African partners. This is the richest and most precise sources for French influence history in Africa during the cold war. Pascal Geneste, in charge of presidential archives at the National Archives in Paris, is to finish an inventory for these archives. (Fonds prive et Fonds public).


© Jean-Pierre Bat, 2009


French Intelligence Service: SDECE, Service de Documentation et de Contreespionnage - Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence Service

After May 1958, and in order to "prepare" post-independence Africa, Colonel Maurice Robert was nominated as the head of African Department in the French intelligence Services. He used to be chief of station (COS) in Dakar, Senegal since 1956. He directed a special police centre in Dakar, which trained African policemen to be the heads of African intelligence (for instance Jean Fochive in Cameroon).

His mission was to organize intelligence in French Africa. In the mean time he had to give France networks all over its former colonies, and he had to train African counter-intelligence services.

So, he created special stations in every Republic: PLR, Paste de Liaison et de Renseignement - Station for Intelligence and Security Cooperation. Their goal was to form African intelligence networks, according to the following principle: what is safe for France is to be safe for French Africa (meaning the pre-carrei. PLR director was taking his orders both from the French Embassy and from the African Presidence.

At the same time, French counter-Intelligence police (DST, French MI 5) decided to be involved in the Security issue, creating a service for special police of Cooperation: SCTIP (Service de Cooperation technique international de la police). Their officers took place in every Republic, just like the PLR. Their competences were directly inherited from the Community security service: SSEC (Service de Securite exterieur de la Communaute, 1958-1961).

Intelligence in French Africa was built and represented by all the French security services ... Their main mission turned out to be more counter-intelligence than classic intelligence.

It was, indeed, one of the most efficient ways for French influence: President personal security became the closer link between France and its partners. The more France was involved in such an issue, the more an African President was sure to be a friend of Paris and had to protect French interests in his area.

That is why most of the first African counter-intelligence service directors were Frenchmen. After 1960's, lots of former French spies or special policemen, instead of retiring to Europe, preferred to keep on working in Africa, but this time under African contracts; for instance colonel Jean-Claude Mantion (former DGSE officer in Bangui) worked in Central Africa Republic with President Kolingba.

Abidjan, a French-African Intelligence Centre

According to the tactical place that Houphouet-Boigny, as the head of the African political network (RDA) , meant to Foccart, Abidjan became very soon the most important intelligence centre in the pre-carre. Its influence went from western Africa as during the Biafran crisis (1967-1970) to central Africa, like in Gabon with

5 Renault, Andre, Maurice Robert, « Ministre de I 'Afrique », Paris, Seuil, 2004, 411 p.


© Jean-Pierre Bat, 2009

President Bongo (1967) when Leon M'Ba died in Paris and Bongo became Houphouet-Boigny's spritual son) or in the Democratic Republic of Congo - former Belgian Congo - with President Tshombe (1964-1965).

Whereas a bare PLR (SDECE station) was composed by a few persons (an officer, and two deputies), in Abidjan it was a mix of fifty French and Ivorian officers, working together. Colonel Maurice Robert chose a very famous French spy to become director: Lieutenant-Colonel Raymond Bichelot, former fighter in Special Forces during WWII and Indochina war (1945-1954). When his time was over, President Houphouet-Boigny asked France to keep Bichelot by his side, considering "he was more efficient than the French Army" in Ivory Coast6.

Abidjan was the centre for French intelligence, covering Ivory Coast, HauteVolta (which became Burkina Faso in 1986 with President Thomas Sankara), Niger, Dahomey (which became Benin) ... and also extra French African countries just like Ghana (under officer Gildas Lebeurrier's responsibility, a former fighter for French Algeria) and for a time Nigeria, during the Biafran crisis (1967-1970).

Jean Mauricheau-Beaupre, Foccart's secret deputy in Africa

President Houphouet-Boigny connected intelligence and political networks thanks to Jean Mauricheau Beaupre, Foccart's deputy, whose office can be compared to the missi dominici in the Carolus Magnus Empire (ninth century).

Beside security tasks of French services (SDECE and SCTIP), MauricheauBeaupre was in charge of political and tactical black operations. His goal was to keep safe French influence in Africa face to international crisis, during the cold war: he began his job in Brazzaville, to "control" the Katanga crisis and to support Moise Tshombe versus UN and official government of Leopoldville (1960-1963).

France can not officially interfere outside its pre-carre. There, Mauricheau imagined using French mercenaries to support Tshombe's constabulary and military forces. Mauricheau called former French counter-guerrilla military specialists, who had been fighting in Algeria, like Major Faulques. This is also the beginning of private soldiers, among whom Bob Denard emerged: both veterans of Algeria and private soldiers form the mercenaries used indirectly by France, thanks to MauricheauBeaupre, only known as «Mr John» (United Kingdom used the same policy with mercenaries from South Africa or Rhodesia in Congo crisis, Mike Hoare appears to be one of these main actors).

The Biafran crisis turns out to be the most instructive issue, which allows us to portray Foccart's networks throughout Mauricheau's activities. In order to prevent Ivory Coast and the former western French Africa from the fear to be crushed by

6 Obviously, and on the contrary of British special services, no consultation of SDECE archives is possible. But, French intelligence can be approached thanks to military intelligence services, the famous Deuxieme Bureau (the Office in charge at the Headquarters of military intelligence and its services in the field). Intelligence officers from the Deuxieme Bureau inform the Army in Paris of every intelligence activity in the field: on the one hand they survey SDECE and African special services, and on the other hand, western (particularly CIA) and Eastern (particularly Egyptian, Chinese, Czechoslovak and Russian services). Those documents are kept by the French Army, in the military centre for History (Service historique de la Defense) at the Chateau de Vincennes (by Paris).


© Jean-Pierre Bat, 2009

Nigeria, the elephant of western Africa, Houphouet-Boigny decided to support General Ojukwu; Mauricheau-Beaupre had to plan the black operation to connect different resources to help the Biafran secession; in Libreville, Philippe Letteron, Mauricheau's deputy - helped by the French ambassador, the French military counsellor and the French chief of station -, had to arrange military assistance to Biafra; Bob Denard was in charge of delivering Ojukwu ammunitions by ship; and Major Faulques was in the field to fight against Nigerian forces.

Code names illustrate the relationships inside those networks. De Gaulle - or French presidency - is named « Big Father»

Houphouet-Boigny is named « Big Brother» (of other African Presidents in the RDA system, like Tombalbaye, Bongo, etc)

Mauricheau-Beaupre is named «Mathurin»

In conclusion, here is the point: officially, Foccart is nowhere ... He appears to be thanks to his networks everywhere!

This organization ended in 1974: when President Pompidou died, the time of traditional Gaullism was over. Foccart left the Elysee, but not Africa: he remained up to his death the main counsellor for Africa for Jacques Chirac. Foccart died in 1997, only two years after he returned to the Elysee!

7 Philippe Letteron has been one of the key figures of this work, throughout our interviews. He gave me access to his personal archives. For instance, code names are known thanks to Philippe Letteron


© Jean-Pierre Bat, 2009

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