March 24, 2023

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Macron says that the French bases in Africa will be run in cooperation with the host countries

  • Macron says the number of French military personnel in Africa will be reduced
  • The speech comes days before a trip to four African countries
  • The French trip comes amid a battle for influence with Russia

PARIS/LIBREVILLE (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday that French military bases in Africa would be gradually shared with host countries after Paris suffered a series of setbacks in its former sphere of influence.

In a speech ahead of a trip to four African countries this week, Macron said the French military would become less visible and fewer soldiers would be deployed, in an effort to defuse tensions in West Africa, where anti-French sentiment is running high.

“The rules as they are now are a legacy of the past,” he told reporters at the Elysee Palace in Paris two days before he headed to Gabon, the first country on a tour that will also take him to countries that were not former French colonies. , including Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“These bases will not be closed, but reorganized,” he said, adding that the new bases or “academies” will gradually begin to be “African” and run in cooperation with African and European partners.

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The tour comes just over a week after Burkina Faso expelled French forces, ending a military pact that allowed France to fight rebels in the West African country, becoming the latest African country to refuse Paris’ help.

France withdrew its forces from Mali last year after the military council there began working with Russian military contractors.

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Russia’s Wagner Group has also spread to CAR, prompting fears of a domino effect in Paris just as Western countries try to lobby the Global South against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

Macron said he was “proud” of France’s military record in Mali, and would not allow the country to be a scapegoat for the worsening security situation in the Sahel region, where Islamist rebels have made advances.

“France’s role is not to fix all the problems in Africa,” he said.

Macron also said that African countries will eventually stop turning to the Wagner Group because they will see that it only sows misery.

“It is a group of criminal mercenaries, life insurance for failed regimes and putschists,” he said.

Macron accused Russia of feeding anti-French propaganda in Africa to serve “predatory” ambitions.

On Monday, he said he refused to be drawn into an anachronistic rivalry between predatory powers and felt “no nostalgia for Franco-Africanism”, the murky ties between France and its former colonies that at times saw Paris support authoritarian regimes.

“But I don’t want to leave a vacuum or a vacuum after that,” he said, urging French companies to bid for contracts there and to be more respectful of African countries by sending senior executives to negotiate with them rather than lower-ranking managers.

During the trip, Macron will focus on the environment and will take part in a summit on forests in Gabon, as well as meet African artists.

(Reporting by Michelle Rose, Sudeep Kar-Gupta and Lily Forody in Paris and Elisabeth Pineau in Libreville; Editing by Christina Fincher

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