While he was a student at ENA, the future President François Hollande was passionate about the Horn of Africa. He even went so far as to organize a trip to Somalia at the end of 1979.
Among the first Western visitors to land in Mogadishu in December 1979, just after Somalia broke off its ties with the Soviet Union to turn towards the United States, was a group of students from the prestigious French Ecole Nationale d`Administration (ENA) [Read below] gathered around François Hollande. According to the forthcoming book “Roman de la promotion Voltaire” by the journalist Martin Leprince, to be published in Paris on 31 January by Editions Jacob-Duvernet, part of the “bande du Caréna” (a student union they had founded) had created a “Horn of Africa” optional course at ENA which had led to this group trip to Somalia. Quite a few of the people on this trip with Francois Hollande have now risen to import posts, like Jean-Pierre Jouyet (Director General of Caisse des dépôts), Bernard Cottin (former head of the cable operator Numéricable), Jean-Maurice Ripert (European Union delegate to Ankara), Colette Horel (the head of development of the Paris transport authority RATP), Sylvie François (head of HR for La Poste) and Michel Gagneux (inspector general of social affairs).
The group had initially wanted to go to Ethiopia, then under the rule of President Mengistu Haile Mariam, but it was unable to do so because westerners were not welcome there. They therefore decided to spend the year-end holidays in Mogadishu, where they were received by several of the dignitaries of President Siad Barre`s regime and also by the diplomats at the French embassy. The Somalian government even attributed them “two bodyguards who did not leave them for a moment throughout their stay”. Martin Leprince ends this episode by pointing out: “The stay was emotionally very painful for many of them. Talking about the third world is one thing, staring it in the face is another”. This dictum still holds true today.
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