French President Emmanuel Macron reiterated Thursday (2 March) that France harboured no desire to return to past policies of interfering in Africa after he began a four-nation tour of the continent.
“The age of Francafrique is well over,” Macron said in remarks to the French community in Gabon, referring to France’s post-colonisation strategy of supporting authoritarian leaders to defend its interests.
Macron is visiting four central African countries at a time when France finds itself facing a wave of hostility among troubled former colonies in the Sahel, forcing it to withdraw its troops.
Ahead of his visit, Macron on Monday gave some details of the redeployment of French forces, after their departure from Mali and the Central African Republic in 2022 and from Burkina Faso last month.
He said there would be a “noticeable reduction” in the French troop presence in Africa “in the coming months” and a greater focus on training and equipping allied countries’ forces.
In his remarks in Libreville, Macron insisted that the reorganisation was “neither a withdrawal nor disengagement but adapting an arrangement” with allies.
Macron arrived late Wednesday in Gabon, a close French supporter, for a conference on preserving tropical forests — an initiative that he and Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba unveiled at last year’s UN climate conference.
After attending the summit section of the conference on Thursday, he headed to Angola before flying on Friday to the Republic of Congo and neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.
In DR Congo, where perceptions of French support for neighbouring Rwanda have stoked anti-French sentiments in the eastern regions, Macron was asked to condemn Rwanda.
“I have been very clear about the condemnation of the M23 and those who support it,” said Macron, referring to the M23 rebel group. Congo accuses Rwanda of backing the group. Rwanda denies the allegation.
A peace process brokered by regional powers in Angola in November has so far failed to end the fighting, but Macron said he had confidence in the plan.
“If they do not respect it, then yes there can be sanctions,” he said without naming any particular party.
Adira Kallo with agency reports