Association for Free Research and International Cooperation

The Agriculture fair: French interference in African politics in the spotlight

10.03.2020
Article from AFRIC Editorial
The honeymoon between Cameroon and France did not last long after all. While it was believed that relations between the two countries had returned to normalcy, Emmanuel Macron aroused the anger of the Cameroonian authorities at the Agriculture Fair in Paris, by having a discussion on the human rights situation in Cameroon and the crisis in the English-speaking regions of the country with an illegal immigrant. Beyond the discussion, the French leader made some shocking remarks that confirm the Cameroonian public opinion, by boasting of having control over the management of the country's political affairs. The concept of these statements is condemned and questions the basis of relations between France and its former African colonies almost 60 years after independence.

In Cameroon, Macron’s injunction against President Biya affirms the opinion that France has firm control over regimes in Africa. It also contributes to further fuel the anti-French sentiment which is gaining ground on the African continent.

Macron called by the French to take care of France’s affairs 

Emmanuel Macron’s intervention did not only create turmoil on the Cameroonian side. In France, he is reproached by his compatriots and within the political class for being more concerned with the situation in Cameroon than resolving the social-political crises that are shaking France. Nadine Morano, former French MP and member of the Republican Party lashed out her reproach in a provocative tweet saying, “the French President is dangerous for our country! See him respond with mad imprudence to this man presenting himself as an illegal immigrant activist from Cameroon, without even knowing his identity or his real motivations”. She describes the attitude of the French President at the agricultural fair as immature.  The reactions that followed this tweet on the internet are as aggressive as ever. Many French people say they are surprised by the attention paid by the head of the Elysée to a young African immigrant, while Éric Drouet, an emblematic figure of the Yellow Vests, who was also present at the agricultural fair and tried to approach the French president, was expelled and taken into custody.  

An internet user identified under the pseudonym @ClaudineMarchal3 claims that, “Mr. Macron, after wanting to be the President of Europe, he now wants to be the President of Africa, and well, let him go to his friends in Africa, and godspeed!  Fed up with this puppet!”

For @orain25357559, the place of the Cameroonian activist is not in France, but in Cameroon where he should lead his fight. “Ha, the guy should be by his brothers leading the fight, but he prefers to hide in France and challenge a guy who oppresses his people. Get out you African!” According to this other internet user @edouarhusson, the French president simply has to break the colonizer-colonized relations that exist between French leaders and their African counterparts. “The same one who explains that colonization was a crime against humanity doesn’t seem embarrassed to talk to an activist about the policies of the head of a sovereign African state. He even talks about the content of telephone calls.”

The independent French news website Mediaparte in an article entitled: Au Salon de l’Agriculture: le Cameroun, le Macron et l’Idiot Utile, argues that the misfortune of the black continent is partly due to those Africans who continue to beg for help and support from Paris to solve their problems, making Africa a land for re-colonization.  

“The contempt of French leaders towards Africa is so constant and timeless, but there are still Africans, intellectuals included, who run behind France (the West) to beg for aid, sponsorship, attention, love, benevolence… I pity Africa!” 

The French information website www.laCroix.com also commented to the scandal created by Macron’s remarks, stated that it is the French colonialist ghost who is disturbing Cameroon and waving like a red cloth.  According to Mediapart, Emmanuel Macron, who boasts of having given orders to Paul Biya, violates the very principle of interstate secrecy without the slightest fear of diplomatic conflict and demonstrates the lack of consideration he gives to his Cameroonian counterpart. According to the site, one wonders whether he would use the same condescending tone towards US President Donald Trump or North Korean President Kim Jong Un without the risk of reprisals in return. In an analysis published on his Facebook page, the Cameroonian-born economist and writer Jean Paul Pougala argues that President Macron’s statements at the agriculture fair proved his desire to be a master of Cameroonian politics.

“France always seeks to interfere in Cameroon’s internal affairs. And when he meets closed doors, he, Macron, is often forced to resort to blackmail to bend Paul Biya…but even weakened in the general context, France remains on a pedestal, supported by the Africans themselves, because they are naïve, ignorant and uncultured”

Diplomatic incident 

The “paternalistic” remarks of Emmanuel Macron, who seems to boast of his influence over his Cameroonian counterpart, also led to a diplomatic incident. In the video of his exchange with and alleged activist Calibri Calibro, one can clearly hear the French head of state, affirming his intention to “call President Paul Biya next week” and to “put maximum pressure on him to put an end to the situation”. The French president also points out that he is behind the release of the leader of the Movement for the Renaissance of Cameroon, Maurice Kamto, which was also the result of some pressure exerted on Paul Biya. On the side of the ruling party, the Cameroon’s People Democratic Movement (CPDM), denounces the devaluation of the country’s institutions and a violation of the norms, values and principles that should govern diplomatic relations between states. 

In a statement dated 23 February 2020, the Minister of Communication, Government Spokesman, René Emmanuel Sadi, expressed indignation at the departure of Abdoulaye Thiam Calibri Calibro, whom he described as “presumed activist with senseless and irresponsible behaviour”. The press release read as follows “The Government unreservedly condemns the act of this person who claims to belong to a people whose pride and dignity is well known, and who thought its his duty to call on the Head of State of a country with which Cameroon has long-standing, close and mutually beneficial relations of friendship and cooperation, which have always been based on the sacred principles of State sovereignty and mutual respect.” 

In its message, the Cameroonian government invites Cameroon’s partner countries and friends not to pay attention to certain activists presented as “adventurers” whose sole objective is to harm Cameroon’s image.

Regarding the statements of the young man claiming to be from Cameroon, who accuses President Biya of genocide in the English-speaking regions, the Minister of Communication recalled in his message that the forces of law and order deployed in the North-west and South-west have the prerogative to preserve the territorial integrity of the country, peace and security of property and persons. Measures have also been taken to counter the threat posed by Boko Haram in the North and the repercussions of the Central African crisis in the East. 

If in its communication, the government was careful not to mention anything about the French president’s remarks, the young Cameroonians who invaded the French embassy in Yaounde the next day did not deprive themselves of this pleasure. On their placards and banners, they made a point of reminding Emmanuel Macron, considered as arrogant, that Cameroon is not a “DOM-TOM”, (one of French overseas departments, regions and collectivities) and that no pressure should be exerted on President Paul Biya as the head of a country that has been independent since 1960 and whose sovereignty must be respected.

Various reactions within the political class

In addition to the government, the press and internet users, many Cameroonian political figures also made a point of speaking out about the French president’s statements. For political scientist Mathias Éric Owona Nguini, Macron’s speech is “a paternalistic and childish communication”. Issa Tchiroma, president of the Front for the Salvation of Cameroon (FNSC) believes that the assertions of the French president are prejudicial to the Cameroonian people. The members of the Union of the Peoples of Cameroon (UPC) supported this view through a communiqué stating that it is necessary to wring the neck to neo-colonialism. For the nationalist party, Yaounde should simply break all ties with Paris and at the same time break the secret neo-colonial agreements between Cameroon and France. They also warned all the political parties in the country who are counting on the support of Paris to seize power. Cabral Libii, a former presidential candidate and leader of the Cameroonian Party for National Reconciliation (PCRN), said on national television, CRTV, that he expected a strong reaction from the Cameroonian president following Macron’s remarks. He said the first one to be outraged in this story should be the Cameroonian Head of State who is the guarantor of Cameroon’s international sovereignty. This view is shared by the Cameroonian social activist Nathalie Yamb, who also expressed surprise at the silence of the Cameroonian President.

For Africa to achieve sustainable and equitable development, it must be totally sovereign, as one of the experts from the Association for Free Research and International Cooperation (AFRIC) said at the Berlin summit on the prospects for Africa “Africa 2040”. However, as the association rightly points out in its final report, despite the revolutionary struggles waged on the continent by some emblematic figures of pan-Africanism, institutions in Africa today remain weakened by the influence exerted by colonial powers.

This is not the first time that France has been accused of interference of an African state. Following the proclamation of the results of the last presidential election in the Democratic Republic of Congo by the Independent National Commission (CENI), with Felix Tshisekedi as the winner, Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, had provoked the anger of Kinshasa by stating that he had doubts the credibility of the results conveyed by the CENI, which according to him were not in conformity with those of the CENCO (National Episcopal Conference of Congo). Jean Ives Le Drian thus implied that the winner of this election was none other than Martin Fayulu, the candidate of the Lamuka coalition.  The Congolese Minister of Communication and Media, Lambert Mende Omalanga, called these remarks “colonialist”, reminding that France had nothing to do with the electoral poll in the DRC. 

“I am from a generation where people do not come to tell Africa what to do”, Emmanuel Macron told the young students at the University of Ouagadougou on 28 November 2017 during an African tour that took him to Burkina Faso, Côte D’Ivoire and Ghana. It was believed at the time that the French leader heralded a new era in Franco-African relations and that he was committed to modernizing them. In view of his statements on February 8, 2020 at the Agriculture Fair on the subject of Cameroon, it is clear that nothing has changed in France’s foreign policy in Africa. Paris seems not to have understood that it should no longer claim to or take part in writing the history of Africa in the place of Africans.

Article from AFRIC Editorial

Photo Credit : google image/illustration

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