Macron outlines new Africa strategy
Emmanuel Macron said on Monday that France’s military presence in Africa will see a “noticeable reduction” as Paris attempts to counter rising anti-French sentiment fomenting in some of its former African colonies on the continent.
“The change will happen in the coming months with a noticeable reduction of our numbers and a great presence in these bases of our African partners,” Macron said at the Elysee Palace in Paris on Monday ahead of his four-nation African visit later this week. The French leader is due to visit Gabon, Angola, Congo-Brazzaville and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The “reorganization,” as Macron put it, “does not intend to be a withdrawal” and France will retain a presence on the continent, he said, “but with a reduced footprint.”
His visit comes a little more than a week after Burkina Faso ejected French troops from the country following a military coup. Mali did the same last year after its military junta reportedly began working with Russian military contractors.
This ended a near decade-long collaboration between French forces and the African country against Islamist insurgents in the region, with Paris ultimately being criticized for a lack of success in the struggle against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) and Al-Qaeda affiliates, particularly in the Sahel region.
Macron, however, has accused Moscow of stoking anti-French propaganda in Africa, which he claimed serves Russia’s “predatory” ambitions.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has responded to the French claims by saying that France and other European nations “committed multiple bloody atrocities on the continent” and, even today, Paris “openly considers Africa its backyard.” Lavrov earlier this month promised continued military support to Mali in its fight against terrorism.
Macron also said on Monday that some of France’s bases on the continent would undergo an “Africanisation” of personnel and that they would develop into training facilities for troops. He will also meet African artists on the trip and participate in an environmental summit in Gabon.