French President Emmanuel Macron was in Cameroon this Tuesday, July 26, 2022, the first part of his African tour, his first trip to the African continent since his re-election for a second term at the end of April. He held a joint press conference in Yaoundé with his colleague Paul Biya, 89 years old and in power for almost 40 years, and the question of Russian influence on the continent was raised.
The two heads of state expressed their satisfaction with a relationship described by Paul Biya as “fruitful and mutually beneficial”. Yet in April, the renewal of a military cooperation agreement between Yaoundé and Moscow had raised eyebrows in Paris. Especially the choice of timing. In the middle of the war in Ukraine and while Yaoundé abstained from voting for sanctions in the UN.
Asked about this by our special envoys Amelie Tulet and Boris VicithCameroon’s President Paul Biya makes no connection between these two news: “We had signed a cooperation agreement with this country which had expired. We renewed it and we signed it. My minister’s trip to Russia had nothing to do with the war situation in Ukraine. We are used to signing such agreements, and in Africa there are many countries that have agreements with Russia. It was just a matter of renewing the already existing agreement.”
Paul Biya talks about the Russian issue
After the interview with President Paul Biya, Emmanuel Macron, when asked about the Élysée’s concerns regarding Russian influence on the African continent, speaks of a double Russian diplomacy at the microphone of our special envoys Amelie Tulet and Boris Vicith. “Russia completed its diplomatic offer with the intervention of Wagner militias. In particular, what we have seen flourishing in recent years in the Central African Republic and Mali, to name just two cases, is very worrying, because these are not classic forms of cooperation. »
Emmanuel Macron condemns Russia’s action on the African continent
The president insists: “At that point, it is Russia that decides, through the intervention of the militias, to support either weakened political powers, which decide not to deal with their problems in a political way, but to militarize them, or to military juntas, which have no political legitimacy to tell them that we bring security and protection to you, not to your people, to you, in exchange for Russian influence and capture of raw materials, with often abuses documented by the UN Human Rights Commission and all the missions that is deployed there. That’s what happens.”
Responding to him from a distance, the head of Russian diplomacy Sergei Lavrov, also on tour in Africa, assured that his country would “significantly increase” its role on the continent.
Emmanuel Macron wants to make Africa one of the priorities of his second five-year term, in light of the competition from China and Russia, but by betting on “soft power” rather than on politics or the military, the tools traditional influences from France.
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