Emmanuel Macron will complete an African tour this Thursday, which took him from Cameroon to Guinea-Bissau via Benin. The French president, who has made Africa a diplomatic priority, wanted to bring France’s voice to many issues.
War in Ukraine: Emmanuel Macron condemns the “hypocrisy” of certain African countries.
In Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon and the first leg of the trip, Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday condemned the “hypocrisy” observed “especially on the African continent”, consisting of not clearly recognizing Russia’s “unilateral aggression” against Ukraine.
Indeed, many African countries have not condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a neutrality that can be explained by food or security dependency relations with Russia.
Cameroon, which signed a defense agreement with Moscow in April, is one of those countries.
Russia: a “colonial imperialist power”
From Benin, the French president on Wednesday accused Russia of being “one of the last colonial imperialist powers” after launching “a territorial war” in Ukraine.
Emmanuel Macron condemned a “hybrid presence” in Africa, especially through the presence of the paramilitary group Wagner, and also called on Africans not to believe the “falsehoods” that the Russian media broadcast on the continent. Regarding the food crisis, “it is not the sanctions that created the situation, but the war decided by Russia”, for example, wanted to recall the head of state.
The head of Russian diplomacy Sergei Lavrov, also on tour in Africa, drove the point home by assuring that his country would “significantly increase” its role on the continent.
French influence: “we are pushed”
Traveling through Central Africa, Emmanuel Macron also sought to revive the image of France. The Quai d’Orsay has been concerned for several years about the anti-French sentiment that is developing in certain regions of the continent, to the benefit of the growing influence of Russia and China.
On the economic level, the example of Cameroon is obvious. French companies, numbering about 200, now represent only about 10% of the country’s economy, compared to 40% in the sleepy 1990s. It is up to us to become better, more efficient”.
On the political level, “France does not need to interfere, to baptize anyone, to give lessons”, the Elysée had stressed before the trip, while clarifying that the issues of “State of right” should be discussed during the trip. Supporting the democratic transition without appearing to interfere in the country’s affairs: a difficult equation to solve for Emmanuel Macron, who met at least two leaders accused of authoritarianism: Paul Biya in Cameroon – 89 years old, forty years in power – and Patrice Talon in Benin.
If he refrained from publicly criticizing the governance of the crossed countries, the head of state did not hesitate to criticize the “corruption” that prevails in African economic circles.
Terrorism: “we will not give up”
“We will not let go of security on the African continent”, Emmanuel Macron warned on Tuesday in Yaoundé, confirming his desire to “reinvent” the French “military and security system”, especially after the departure of the French from Mali. “France will remain resolutely committed to the security of the continent in support and at the request of our African partners”, explained the head of state.
No economic development is possible without peace and security. France will remain committed to Africa in support and at the request of our African partners. pic.twitter.com/xYq78P9Xiq
— Elysee (@Elysee) 26 July 2022
The development of the unit, initiated since the announcement of the withdrawal of Operation Barkhane from Mali in the face of the hostility of the junta in power, will be both geographical and organizational. “We are reorganizing our system by withdrawing from Mali, because the political framework is no longer there (…), to expand our system, beyond the Sahel, to the Gulf of Guinea and the countries of the second belt, which must now stand against terrorist groups that are spreading and shaking the whole region”, explained the French president.
“We will remain mobilized with the countries of Lake Chad to help them fight the terrorists who have left the far north of Cameroon for so many years”, he also assured, where Boko Haram is active.
FRENCH COLONIZATION: HISTORIANS TO “SHEEPLIGHT”
In Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon, French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday asked historians to “shed light” on France’s actions during colonization and after that country’s independence, announcing the opening “in total” of the French archives of “painful” ” and ” tragic moments”.
“I want that together we can have and launch a joint work of Cameroonian and French historians”, suggested the head of state during a press conference with his Cameroonian counterpart Paul Biya.
The French president, eager to turn the page on “Françafrique” and unite memories, had already requested several times the work of historians, such as Benjamin Stora, author of a report on the memories of the Algerian war, or Achille Mbembe, who had prepared Africa-France Summit in Montpellier.
Commemorative issues were at the heart of Emmanuel Macron’s trip to Benin on Wednesday, to whom France returned 26 works looted in 1892 by French colonial troops. After visiting the exhibition of these treasures in Cotonou, Emmanuel Macron assured that this process would continue.
The return of 26 works from Abomey to the Republic of Benin is only the beginning of cultural cooperation between our countries. With Benin, it is a new cultural project that we want to build in the coming months. pic.twitter.com/uZiz5EQ7FU
— Elysee (@Elysee) 27 July 2022
In particular, the Beninese are demanding the return of other symbolic works to the country, such as the sculpture of the god Gou, which is housed in the Louvre museum.
The appeasement policy desired by Paris, which has had mixed results in the former French colonies, at least seems to be working in Benin. Relations are “uninhibited and free of the weight of the past”, welcomed Beninese President Patrice Talon.