President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday said the era of French interference in Africa is “well over” as he began a four-nation tour of the continent to renew frayed ties.
As the continent has become a renewed diplomatic battleground, with Russian and Chinese influence growing in the region, anti-French sentiment has run high in some former African colonies.
Before the first leg of his trip, Macron stated that France has no desire to return to previous policies of interfering in Africa.
"The age of Francafrique is well over,” Macron said in remarks to the French community in the capital Libreville, referring to France’s post-colonisation strategy of supporting authoritarian leaders to defend its interests.
“Sometimes, I get the feeling that mindsets haven’t moved along as much as we have, when I read, hear and see people ascribing intentions to France that it doesn’t have,” he added.
Pan-Africanists have claimed that after the wave of decolonization in 1960, France propped up dictators in its former colonies in exchange for access to resources and military bases.
Macron and his predecessors, most notably Francois Hollande, have previously stated that the policy is no longer in effect and that France has no intention of interfering in sovereign affairs.
Macron insisted on Thursday that the planned reorganization was "neither a withdrawal nor a disengagement," defining it as adapting to the needs of partners.
These areas of cooperation included combating maritime piracy, illegal gold mining, and environmental crimes linked to regional drug trafficking, which, he said, was driven by a "terrorist movement" in the Lake Chad region.
Macron will travel to Angola, a former Portuguese colony, on Friday to sign an agreement to develop the agricultural sector as part of an effort to strengthen French ties with anglophone and Portuguese-speaking Africa.
The tour was intended to "demonstrate the president's commitment to the process of renewing the relationship with the African continent," according to a French presidential official who requested anonymity.
It indicated that the African continent is a "political priority" for his presidency.
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