Emmanuel Macron arrived in Cameroon on Monday 26 July. It has been seven years since a French president came to Yaoundé. In 2015, François Hollande stayed only a few hours. Today, Emmanuel Macron will meet French society, discuss with representatives of civil society and young people, but above all he will be received by Paul Biya.
With our special correspondent in Yaoundé, Amelie Tulet
A one-hour face-to-face meeting will be scheduled to take place in the secrecy of the Unity Palace Emmanuel Macron is facing Paul Biya, 44 years old for the first time, twice for his host, including four decades that soon spent in power . The two heads of state will have lunch together and hold a joint press conference.
The Elysée had assured that all issues would be addressed: governance, the rule of law… nothing will be avoided, but no “media injunction”; Paris’ position is to listen to requests, s There are Cameroonian authorities regarding e.g. for example support for decentralization. On everyone’s mind, Cameroon’s political future and stability, the ongoing crisis in the majority English-speaking regions of the northwest and southwest, but also Boko Haram in the far north, piracy in the Gulf of Guinea or the struggle for influence on the continent with Russia.
Economically, French interests in Cameroon are numerous but declining. Paris would like to have a better business climate.
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This visit will also be an opportunity for Emmanuel Macron to support his desire to highlight youth and civil society through round tables in the wake of last October’s summit in Montpellier.
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He will not meet opposition leaders himself.
The expectations of the Cameroonian authorities… “Friendship and solidarity” on the official posters planned for this visit to Yaoundé. Emmanuel Macron and Paul Biya appear side by side and shake hands. In the background a blue sky, but not without clouds.
In its press kit, the Civil Cabinet of the Cameroonian Presidency presents this visit as an “opportunity for the two heads of state to confirm the solidity of the Yaoundé-Paris axis in mutual listening and respect”. The Cameroonian authorities describe the many areas in which the two countries cooperate: scientific research, infrastructure, trade and economic development.
On the security front, Yaoundé reminds that “in the context of the fight against Boko-Haram, France stands firm next to Cameroon”.
In this press kit, the civil cabinet of the presidency adds that Cameroon is “entitled to expect (from Paris, editor’s note) support for the reconstruction in the north-west and south-west regions”, “also from the far north region”, as well as “support for the decentralization process “.
As a sort of clarification, while the Elysée has planned to give voice to civil society during the stay in Yaoundé, the presidency devotes more than one page to political freedoms, especially the press. On this subject, the text condemns the “bad faith” of certain NGOs, such as Reporter Without Borders. The text also condemns the denigration of Cameroon in foreign media and “the campaigns for the instrumentalization of public opinion against the defense and security forces”.
Regarding the issue of the past and the struggle for independence, it is written that “the evocation of history cannot escape the psychological rapprochement and the emotional dimension between the Cameroonian and French people.”
And from the opposition… For a good part of the political opposition, it is not possible that the two heads of state do not address the issue of the transition at the head of the country, notes our correspondent in Yaounde, Polycarp Essomba. But beware, immediately warns Maurice Kamtos MRC that, above all, it is out of the question for Emmanuel Macron to come and christen what he calls “over-the-counter”, that is, the transfer of power from father to son from Biya to another Biya, in this case the son Frank, for whom movements of support are becoming more and more noisy in the capital.
This also worries Jean-Michel Nintcheu, deputy of the SDF, who declares that Cameroonians will not accept that someone at the head of the Supreme Magistrate is imposed on them. The oldest opposition, of nationalist allegiance, updates its questions to France about what it describes as historic trials. She will beg for the slightest statement in accordance with the recognition of the heavy obligations of the period before and after independence.
As for civil society, it hopes that the issue of rights and freedoms will be addressed, and also shares with political leaders the desire to strengthen democracy, especially electoral law reforms for less contested elections in the future.