In West Africa, Emmanuel Macron tries to counter Russian influence and the food crisis

In West Africa, Emmanuel Macron tries to counter Russian influence and the food crisis

*This article is regularly updated

During his official trip to West Africa from Monday to Wednesday (July 25-27), the French President assured the countries of the region of France‘s assistance on security issues while expressing concern about “interference” Russians in the region.

Emmanuel Macron is halfway through a three-day visit to Cameroon, Benin and Guinea-Bissau, in response to the Russian diplomatic offensive in Africa, where Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov received a particularly warm welcome in the Republic of Congo and Uganda.

“We are blamed by some who say that European sanctions (against Russia) are the cause of the global food crisis, including in Africa. It’s totally wrong”Macron said in Cameroon, adding that “Food, like energy, have become Russian weapons of war (…). We must help the African continent to produce more for itself. »

Many African countries, which import Russian grain and energy while also buying Ukrainian grain and benefiting from Western aid flows and trade ties, have avoided taking sides in this war.

Seventeen African nations, namely Algeria, Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan of the South, Madagascar, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe, abstained during the vote in March of a United Nations resolution condemning the Russian invasion, supported by 141 countries out of 193.

During a speech in Yaoundé on Tuesday (July 26), Emmanuel Macron expressed France‘s support for West Africa in the area of ​​food security and the fight against terrorism.

“No economic development is possible without peace and security”he declared, before specifying that France will remain “resolutely committed to the security of the continent, in support and at the request of our African partners”.

Conflict resolution

“We will not let go of the security of the African continent”he concluded, welcoming the ” quality “ security and defense cooperation between the two countries, particularly in terms of training local armed forces.

Tensions have long existed between the English-speaking and French-speaking parts of Cameroon, with English-speaking territories advocating for greater decentralization or even full independence.

The dispute between the territories culminated in open warfare in 2017, an ongoing conflict that has claimed more than 6,000 lives and displaced hundreds of thousands of people.

To resolve the conflict, President Macron said it was necessary to carry out “true decentralization”pointing to regionalization as the solution.

France also intends to “rearticulate” and D’” extend “ its security mechanism in the region to the countries of the Gulf of Guinea, “who have to deal with terrorist groups that are spreading and shaking the whole region”did he declare. “In the Sahel, we are reorganizing our system by withdrawing from Mali”added Mr. Macron.

A growing Russian influence

The French President expressed his concern about the situation in the neighboring Central African Republic and the “interference” experienced by the country, with particular reference to the “hybrid presence of Russia on the African continent”.

According to the French president, Moscow’s presence in the region passes “by the development of propaganda” and by the “spreading false information” with destabilizing effects and by the use of militias such as the infamous Wagner group.

“Russia completed its diplomatic offer with the intervention of (Wagner-type) militias”the president said, citing the examples of the Central African Republic and Mali where Russian mercenaries have been active in recent years.

According to the French president, Russia thus decides to support “weakened political powers that decide not to manage their problems politically and to militarize them, or to military juntas that have no political legitimacy”And this “in exchange for Russian influence and capture of raw materials. »

Macron also accused the African continent of not recognizing “unilateral aggression” of Russia against Ukraine, noting that “It was Russia that started the war”.

Food Safety

Agricultural and food sovereignty was also on the program of the presidential visit, in a context of food crisis due to the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. Some African countries are indeed dependent on Ukrainian wheat held in ports by the Russian blockade. Mr. Macron thus announced increased cooperation in the field.

“I also want France, as part of its diversification, to be there to support the development of sustainable and resilient agriculture”he said, adding that “food like energy have become Russian weapons of war”.

The President welcomed the collaboration within the framework of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the World Food Program to avoid over-stocking, and thus help countries in difficulty.

The Elysée, later on Tuesday evening, appealed to the private sector: “companies are encouraged to partner with WFP by providing services, agricultural inputs and food at a reduced cost” in order to continue the aid undertaken and to “guarantee its continuity”.

“We must help the African continent to produce more for itself”underlined the French president, before highlighting the importance of the FARM initiative launched in March.

The FARM initiative (Food & Agriculture Resilience Mission) is a European emergency storage plan in the event of a crisis, allowing to obtain a multilateral commitment and a transparent monitoring of the obstacles to trade in agricultural products. It also aims to temporarily increase agricultural production targets, as well as to increase investments in sustainable production chains.

Thus, to respond to the urgency of the food crisis, the French President is counting “strengthen the resilience of agricultural systems, help to produce more through training, through a public and private partnership”. He also called on the African continent to become more independent in fertilizer production, which the FARM initiative should facilitate.

“This agenda is essential”he concluded.

[Édité par Davide Basso, Georgi Gotev]

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