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France's Macron Accuses Russia of Pursuing 'Predatory Project' in Africa as Paris Loses Influence

© AFP 2023 / LUDOVIC MARINFrance's President Emmanuel Macron looks on during a bilateral meeting at the 18th Francophone countries Summit in Djerba, on November 19, 2022.
France's President Emmanuel Macron looks on during a bilateral meeting at the 18th Francophone countries Summit in Djerba, on November 19, 2022.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 21.11.2022
A wave of anti-French protests has recently swept Africa's Sahel region, with many protesters expressing pro-Russian sentiments, as Paris begins to withdraw its troops after experiencing military setbacks in countering security threats. Over the weekend, Macron admitted that the French influence in the region has diminished.
French President Emmanuel Macron has accused Russia of spreading disinformation to advance what he coined a "predatory project" in Africa.
On the sidelines of a summit of French-speaking countries in Tunisia this weekend, Macron was asked by reporters to answer critics who say that France exploits historic ties with its former colonies in many spheres such as economics, politics, and culture, to protect and serve its own interests.
In response, Macron claimed that this kind of viewpoint was "fed by others" as part of a special “political project financed by Russia, sometimes others” to push disinformation among the African nations.

“A number of powers who want to spread their influence in Africa are doing this to hurt France, hurt its language, sow doubts, but above all pursue certain interests,” he said.

The French leader alleged that even though three-quarters of people who live in Africa today are under 25 and have never known French colonization, the past is being used by foreign powers to discredit France and its activity on the continent. He highlighted that France should strengthen cooperation with Africa, especially with its youth.
As a former colonial power in most of western and central Africa, Paris has longstanding military ties across the region. French troops were stationed in Mali for almost a decade as part of a counter-terrorism mission in the West African country.
However, earlier this month, President Macron formally announced the end of the counter-terrorist operation known as Barkhane. The operation has been facing severe criticism, with many describing it as a failure "in all respects" and blaming it for continuous unrest in the region.
The French operation has been met with mass protests, whose participants criticized the ineffectiveness of the military mission and the inability to ensure the security of the host countries.
French officials recently stated that the country wouldn't stop providing military support to Africa, and that a new strategy would be worked out in cooperation with African partners. Macron has promised to revamp the country's military and political commitments in African nations to assist them in the fight against terrorism and ensure peace and security on the continent.
A man holds a placard reading Long live Russia as people demonstrate against French military presence in Niger on September 18, 2022 in Niamey. - French forces first intervened in the Sahel's jihadist emergency in 2013, sending troops to support Malian forces fighting a regional insurgency.
It widened the effort a year later with Operation Barkhane, eventually deploying some 5,100 troops, warplanes and drones in former colonies Chad, Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 20.09.2022
Why Nigerien Protesters Want French Army Out & Wave Russian Flags

Trying to Catch Up With Russia

This summer Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov conducted a diplomatic tour of several African countries. Lavrov visited four African countries - Egypt, Ethiopia, Uganda and the Republic of Congo. During his visit, he met senior government officials, members of the diplomatic communities of various countries and representatives of the African Union Commission.
Russia is supporting African states in their fight against terrorism, strengthening military cooperation with the worst-affected countries. As part of these measures, Russia delivers weapons and conducts joint military exercises with local forces.
Additionally, Moscow has affirmed its support for the territorial integrity, political independence, and sovereignty of African states. Moscow highlights that it's extremely important for foreign powers to refrain from activity that undermines the principle of sovereignty of the African nations or international law.
Macron later stated that one of the main goals of his trip, which took place shortly after Lavrov's, was to push back against Russian influence in Africa. He also expressed concerns over Russia's increasing diplomatic and military contacts with African countries. In response, Lavrov said that the French president's statements about his concerns over the expansion of African nations' ties with Russia were insulting, and "more ethical statements could have been expected from the French side."
Russia is seeking to enhance cooperation with Africa taking into account its historic ties with the continent. Soviet Union-Africa relations covered diplomatic, political, military, and cultural relationships. In particular, the Soviet Union supported anti-colonial movements in Africa, which sought independence from the colonial powers.
According to President Putin, Russia attaches great importance to developing relations with African states.

"Today, the development and strengthening of mutually beneficial ties with African countries and their integration associations is one of Russia's foreign policy priorities," Putin said.

In recent years, Russia has significantly expanded its political, economic and military relations with countries all across the continent. As part of this cooperation, the Russian resort city of Sochi held the first Russia-Africa Summit in October 2019. The summit boosted Russia's cooperation with the states of the African continent, including ties in such spheres as trade, investment, energy sector, and security. Moreover, Russia is considered to be one of the Africa's biggest arms suppliers.
Thandi Modise - Sputnik International, 1920, 16.08.2022
Russia Plays Key Role in Africa’s Military & Economic Stability: South Africa's Defense Minister
The second Russia—Africa Summit, scheduled for 2023, will focus on developing ways to expand the country-to-continent economic cooperation. It is expected to give a new impetus to trade, economic, investment, scientific, technological, and cultural contacts.
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