Macron claims era of French interference in Africa is 'well over'
The French President says his country has no desire to return to past policies of interfering in Africa.
French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday said the era of French interference in Africa was "well over" as he began a four-nation tour of the continent to renew strained ties.
Anti-French sentiment runs high in some former African colonies as the continent becomes a renewed diplomatic battleground, with alleged Russian and Chinese influence growing in the region.
Macron claimed that France maintained no desire to return to past policies of interfering in Africa ahead of an environment summit in Gabon, the first leg of his trip.
"The age of Francafrique is well over," Macron said in remarks to the French community in the capital Libreville, referring to France's post-colonization 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.
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Macron on Monday said there would be a "noticeable reduction" in France's troop presence in Africa "in the coming months" and a greater focus on training and equipping allied countries' forces.
France has in the past year withdrawn troops from former colonies Mali, Burkina Faso, and the Central African Republic. The pullout from Mali and Burkina Faso came following months of protests and demands by locals.
In his remarks on Thursday, Macron insisted that the planned reorganization was "neither a withdrawal nor disengagement," defining it as adapting to the needs of partners.
According to official figures, more than 3,000 French soldiers are deployed in Senegal, Ivory Coast, Gabon, and Djibouti. The proposed revamp concerns the first three bases but not Djibouti. Another 3,000 troops are in the Sahel region of West Africa, including in Niger and Chad.
Macron landed in Libreville on Wednesday and will later head to Angola, Congo-Brazzaville, and the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.
His comments came before several heads of state were due to attend the One Forest Summit in Libreville, which will focus on preserving rainforests that play a vital role in the global climate system.
The forests of the vast Congo River basin represent the planet's second-largest carbon sink after the Amazon. They are also home to huge biodiversity including forest elephants and gorillas and bear traces of the settlement of early humanity. But they face threats such as poaching, deforestation for the oil, palm and rubber industries, and illegal logging and mineral exploitation.
The gathering kicked off on Wednesday with exchanges between ministers, civil society representatives, and experts.
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