Fighter jets provided and piloted by Belarus bombed a French military base during the Ivorian Civil War in 2004, according to a diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks.
The February 2006 cable from the American embassy in Paris outlines several meetings between diplomat Josiah Rosenblatt and Togo's former Interior Minister, Francois Boko about arms trafficking from his country to Cote d'Ivoire, also called the Ivory Coast. Boko stated that Belarus had provided two Sukhoi-25 aircraft, along with pilots to fly and technicians to maintain them, that were responsible for the bombing of a French military base that killed 9 French soldiers and one civilian:
3. (C) Boko commented extensively on the links between Togo and the November 6, 2004, bombing in Cote d"Ivoire, when GOCI forces attacked a French military base, killing nine French soldiers and an Amcit civilian. He said that the two Sukhoi-25 aircraft used in the bombing had been provided to the GOCI by former French gendarme Robert Montoya (Refs B and C). Montoya had obtained these and other aircraft and military equipment from Belarus and had also engaged Belarusian pilots and technicians. The planes had arrived unassembled in Togo, where they were assembled and then flown to Cote d"Ivoire. Boko said that the GoT leadership and military were aware of the presence of the planes and pilots/technicians in Togo. Boko said that French forces also had to be aware of their presence because the Belarusian planes were kept at the same Lome air facility the French were using to operate their own air missions in support of French forces in Cote d'Ivoire.
4. (C) After the November 6 bombings, Boko said that he had had the Belarusian pilots/technicians arrested when they returned to Togo from Cote d'Ivoire. He said that there were nine of them. Boko said he furnished details about their identities and activities to the French, through France's Embassy in Lome and also through direct contact with General Poncet, who then commanded France"s Operation Licorne in Cote d'Ivoire. Boko thought there would be high French interest in the information he had conveyed but was surprised when the French did not express much interest.
Although the Ivorian government claimed the bombing was a mistake, France has always maintained the attack was deliberate and destroyed the Ivorian airforce (which consisted of the two B-25 aircraft and 5 helicopters). Violent riots directed at French and other Western nationals broke out in Abijan as a result.
Boko was removed from office after calling for the postponement of elections due to political instability in Togo, in April 2005, and fled for exile in France. He found work as a lawyer with the firm Allain Feneon, where he facilitated the work of "non-African" companies in Africa.
Rosenblatt writes of meeting Allain Feneon in his office, where Chinese efforts to establish a foothold in Africa were discussed:
20. (C) Feneon said he was aware of "at least 500 Chinese companies," most of which were state owned, seeking opportunities in Africa. He said the Chinese were "interested in everything." Several clients of Feneon"s firm are Chinese and he provided a brochure on the firm printed in Chinese. Feneon described one case involving China and Namibia. He said that Namibia had been unable to repay a Chinese loan. The Chinese, he said, quickly told Namibia, "Don"t worry about it. Just give us 5,000 passports and residency documents." Feneon claimed that 5,000 Chinese families were resettled in Namibia as a result and were now engaged in any number of small and large business activities in Namibia. Feneon commented that this kind of arrangement helped solve two problems for the Chinese: easing population pressures and establishing communities in Africa that could be of use to China later.
The cable says Boko talked about his political ambitions to re-enter the Togo political scene as "the opposition's new leader" and was planning several public events to spark his campaign.
Boko expressed "dismay" over France's lack of desire to investigate the Togo-Belarus ties of military trafficking and the 2004 bombing, and predicted the information would become "more problematic" if a stalled probe led by investigating Judge Raynaud ever gained traction with the media. Rosenblatt notes the Belarus connection was reported on twice in major French media publications.