Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, arrives in Cameroon for his first trip to the continent after being re-elected in April. Guinea-Bissau and Benin are also included in the tour.
The trip coincides with France’s efforts to “renovate” its military alliances on the continent in order to sustain strategic rivalry in the face of growing influence from Turkey, China, and Russia.
“Obviously it is very good news for Africa, Central Africa and Cameroon when we see the current socio-political context with the hostility of France in Mali, the war in Ukraine, it is a very good thing. France is coming to Cameroon to warm up its relations and strengthen its support when we know the strategic role that Cameroon plays in Central Africa. It is a very good visit now”, said Cameroonian banker Ndzomo Essomba Henri.
With the repercussions of the war in Ukraine on the supply of grain being a big issue, the food crisis and security are top priorities. Many also want human rights to be a major topic of conversation when Macron and the president of Cameroon, Paul Byia, meet.
“We know that France is a country of human rights – everyone has their faults – but it is a country of human rights and it would not be good for President Macron to come here and not put the human rights issues, which are well respected in France, on the table with his counterpart. That is our wish”, affirmed Maximilienne Ngo Mbe, Executive Director of Redhac (the Central African Human Rights Defenders Network).
Ethnic conflict and an anglophone separatist insurrection have torn apart Cameroon. Some people want the French president to meet with opposition figures.
“We believe that, apart from the political prisoners of the MRC, there is also the question of the release of the presumed political prisoners of the Anglophone crisis. Why would the French president not also meet with the leaders of the Anglophone secessionist claims as well as the political leaders of the opposition in Cameroon”, said Pierre Emmanuel Binyam, communication officer of opposition party, the Movement for the Renaissance of Cameroon, MRC.
Macron would travel to Benin Republic on Wednesday, and on Thursday he will visit Guinea-Bissau, whose president, Umaro Sissoco Embalo, is getting ready to lead the Economic Community of West African States.
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