The President of France, Emmanuel Macron, began his tour of Central Africa in Gabon, which will also take him to Angola, the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The president is pushing for a new policy with the former French colonies, which includes a reduction in the military presence and a trade partnership, while trying to counter the growing influence of Russia and China in the region.
Promising not to return to the past policies of ‘Francáfrica’, the French neocolonial empire, President Emmanuel Macron began his tour of four countries in Central Africa.
In Gabon, his first stop, the Élysée leader assured that his government seeks a renewed relationship of partners with the former French colonies, as well as with other countries on the continent, and not a role of interference.
His statements seek to penetrate the population and governments amid an “anti-French” sentiment and the growing influence of Russia and China in the region.
“The era of ‘Francáfrica’ has ended (…) Sometimes I have the feeling that the mentality has not moved as much as we have, when I read, listen and see people attributing intentions to France that it does not have,” Macron said. this March 2, in a speech in Libreville, the capital.
The president was referring to accusations that, after the wave of decolonization in 1960, France supported dictators in its former colonies in exchange for access to resources and military bases.
On this tour, which also takes him to Angola, the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic, Macron seeks to make it clear that interference is in the past, while promoting a “new era of relations”, centered on a union of business partners. equitable and balanced way.
From military leadership to security cooperation
Macron’s plan includes a “significant reduction” of the French military presence in the coming months and renewed business alliances.
This shift comes amid the biggest challenges Paris has faced on the African continent in decades. In the midst of deteriorating relations between the Macron government and the Mali military junta, France withdrew its troops from there in August 2022, culminating in more than a ten-year mission against jihadism in the Sahel.
However, the French president insisted this Thursday that it was a reorganization and adaptation to the needs of the partners.
Currently, the European country has more than 3,000 soldiers deployed in Senegal, the Ivory Coast, Gabon and Djibouti, according to official figures.
But now, Macron stresses that his new military strategy in the region will have a greater focus on training and equipping the forces of allied countries.
Similarly, Macron promises that French military bases in Africa would be run jointly with host nations and with fewer European nation troops on the ground.
However, military takeovers in Mali and Burkina Faso, two hotbeds of extremist activity whose ruling juntas have clashed with France and other regional and Western allies, leave the region further vulnerable on security issues.
The head of state also assured that this week’s tour would not be political and his agenda, which includes a speech at a high-level forestry summit in Libreville, suggests a focus on the environment, culture and scientific research.
“France is a neutral interlocutor”: Macron defends himself against the opposition in Gabon
Emmanuel Macron is also co-chairing with his Gabonese counterpart, Ali Bongo, the ‘One Forest’ Summit, an international meeting on forest conservation, climate protection and biodiversity following the goals set by the 2015 Paris Agreement and COP15 in Montreal last year.
Macron visited the Raponda Walker Arboretum, a protected forest area near Libreville, in the early hours of Thursday and called for the preservation of forests.
However, the president has been accused by the political opposition in Gabon of supporting the country’s president a few months before the presidential elections.
“What is Macron doing in Gabon? Is he coming for the forest or to support (president) Ali Bongo? (…) If Macron wants to support the Bongo family, we will rise up. Gabon is an independent country. It is not France who appoints to the presidents of Gabon,” said a citizen interviewed by Reuters.
Emmanuel Macron once again defended his position and denied that he intends to interfere in the internal affairs of an African nation.
“In Gabon as elsewhere, France is a neutral interlocutor who talks to everyone and whose role is not to interfere in internal political exchanges,” he added. “I did not come to invest in anyone, I came to show my friendship and my consideration for a country.”
Bongo, whose term ends in August, is not yet officially a candidate for re-election.
Macron is scheduled to head to the former Portuguese colony of Angola on Friday, where he will sign an agreement to develop the agricultural sector as part of a campaign to improve France’s ties with Anglophone and Lusophone Africa.
Then, it will stop in the Republic of the Congo, another former French colony, where Sassou Nguesso has ruled for a total of almost four decades, before reaching the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo. All while he seeks to strengthen economic and commercial ties.
The challenge is obvious. Hundreds of people protested outside the French embassy in the capital, Kinshasa, to denounce France’s alleged support for Rwanda, which Congo accuses of backing a rebel group. Kigali denies the accusations.
But the official visit is momentous for Paris at a time when it loses influence on the continent, while Russia and China strengthen their ties with a region rich in natural resources and supplies of raw materials, including cobalt and lithium, crucial in the manufacture of electric cars, among others.
With Reuters and AFP