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France Needs To Ditch Imperial Ambitions To Restore Its Clout in Africa, Russian Diplomat Says

© AP PhotoMalians demonstrate against France and in support of Russia on the 60th anniversary of the independence of the Republic of Mali in 1960, in Bamako, Mali, Sept. 22, 2020.
Malians demonstrate against France and in support of Russia on the 60th anniversary of the independence of the Republic of Mali in 1960, in Bamako, Mali, Sept. 22, 2020.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 31.03.2023
Recently, France unveiled a new strategy towards the African continent, according to which Paris will reduce its military presence on the continent. This was declared by French President Emmanuel Macron, who later embarked on an African tour.
France should abandon imperial ambitions and not blame other countries for the loss of its authority there, Oleg Ozerov, Ambassador-at-large of the Russian Foreign Ministry, head of the secretariat of the Russia-Africa conference, tells Sputnik.

"This issue should be addressed to the French themselves, because they need to declare a rejection of imperial ambitions, and not shift the blame onto someone else and not to blame other countries, but to take such steps themselves in the field of foreign policy and economy that will convince France's partners that France has really reconsidered its attitude towards the African continent and considers these countries to be equal partners, working with them on the basis of mutual benefit and equal partnership," Ozerov says.

General Thierry Burkhard, French Army Chief of the Defence Staff, talks on April 15, 2022 to a group of soldiers from Cameroon, Chad, Gabon, Democratic republic of Congo, Republic of Congo and Central African Republic taking part in a training at the Raponda Walker Arboretum forest in Akanda, Gabon - Sputnik International, 1920, 02.03.2023
Majority in France Opposes French Military Presence in Africa, Poll Reveals
According to him, the weakening of France's role in Africa is, "if not the final chord, then the extension of the same processes that have been taking place since the end of the 20th century."

"Very powerful propaganda has been unleashed in France, and there is a lot of talk that Russia is allegedly to blame for the loss [of France's] position in Africa. […] France began to lose its position in Africa for a very long time - since the late 1990s," the ambassador pointed out. "At that time, France had already begun to roll back its presence, reshape it, and focus on particular countries. This was due to the loss of France's role, influence and weight, as well as authority."

Ozerov has spotlighted Russia's special role in helping some African countries settle conflicts and military clashes.

"Thanks to Russia, the situation was stabilized first in the CAR, then in Mali. The point here is that the Africans turned to Russia for help not because they want to harm France, but in order to solve their own security problems. And we are doing it well," Ozerov noted.

He recounted that Paris played one of the central roles in the destruction of Libya's statehood, which led to the fact that hordes of extremists and terrorists poured into the expanses of the Sahara-Sahel zone, destabilizing the situation there. According to him, France could not cope with this situation on its own, and the countries of this region then had to turn to Moscow.
Soldiers loyal to Burkina Faso's latest coup leader Capt. Ibrahim Traore gather outside the National Assembly as Traore was appointed Burkina Faso's transitional president in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Friday Oct. 14, 2022. - Sputnik International, 1920, 22.03.2023
Burkina Faso Prioritizes Defense Cooperation With Russia
France's sway in Sahel significantly faded after it pulled out its troops from Mali and Burkina Faso at the behest of local military governments and against the backdrop of anti-French and pro-Russian protests in the countries of the region. The withdrawals took place in 2022 and 2023 respectively. The French forces were present there under the pretext of fighting terrorism, which has been plaguing the region since 2011.
Against the backdrop of France's waning influence in its former West African colonies, President Macron has accused Russia of pursuing a "predatory project" on the continent, noting that "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".
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