French president Nicolas Sarkozy returned to Paris on Friday, after calls on the DR Congo, the Congo Republic, and Niger during a two-day Africa tour. In the DRC, France’s state-controlled nuclear-energy company Areva signed a deal with the government in Kinshasa allowing the company to prospect for and to mine uranium. In Niger, the company signed another deal for uranium mining. Al Jazeera reports that Areva’s mining activities in Niger had been attacked by Tuaregs after thousands of Tuareg nomads had been displaced to make way for the mines. Apparently, French politicians are reacting to allegations that Areva would enforce poor safety and environmental standards, and to mounting allegations that the Niger government expelled nomadic Tuareg tribes. Sarkozy was, with Areva CEO Anne Lauvergeon, due to take part in a meeting of the local chapter of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), an international attempt to set global standards for companies on publishing what they pay and for governments on disclosing what they receive, according to France-24.
The official Republicain Niger refers to Sarkozy’s visit as a review of cooperation within four hours – that’s apparently as much time as the French president has for the former colony. And the paper refers to his meeting with the EITI (after a lunch with president Tandja Mamadou) in a rather ambiguous way: [Sarkozy] will certainly restate his engagement to make transparency in Ali Baba’s Cave a reality, so that the citizens will know that the extractive industries [or mining industries] account to their countries.
[Which country, in the case of Areva's activities in Niger, would be the one to be reported to?]
Areva has committed an initial investment of 1.2 bn Euros at the Imouraren mining site, which is planned to produce 5,000 tons of uranium from 2012, according to La Tribune.
“The Nigeriens must know how much money is paid (…) where the money goes, how it is used. These are the methods of the twenty-first century”, Sarkozy reportedly said at the meeting with the Nigerien EITI committee. By the way, he invited the Nigeriens to do the same with other countries, because “transparency must apply for everyone, not just the former colonial powers”. Without mentioning it by name, he apparently aimed at China, Nigers second trade partner, where the country operates uranium mines and an oil field.
Related: For a “healthier relationship” with Africa, BBC, September 26, 2007