Macron Says Russia, Turkey Fueling Anti-French Sentiment in Africa

Russia and Turkey are fueling anti-French feeling in Africa by playing on post-colonial resentment, French President Emmanuel Macron said in an interview with Jeune Afrique, the most widely read pan-African magazine.

Macron said anti-French sentiment in Africa results partly from decades of France maintaining a “very institutional relationship” with Africa through heads of state and companies, but also a strategy by some African leaders and particularly foreign powers such as Russia and Turkey.

“We must not be naive on this topic: many of those who comment, who make videos, who are present in French-speaking media are paid by Russia or Turkey,” Macron said in the interview published on Friday.

France is one of the biggest foreign investors in Africa, with $53 billion in 2018, according to data from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. The country has deployed more than 5,000 troops in the Sahel region to combat Islamist groups there as part of Operation Barkhane.

Macron said he regrets that his words on radical Islam have been distorted, largely by the Muslim Brotherhood but also by Turkey, with a capacity to influence widespread public opinion, also in sub-Saharan Africa. The president said he’s attacking Islamist terrorism, not Islam, adding that 80% of victims are Muslims.

The French president said he’ll have decisions to make about Barkhane in the coming months and that he needs “a clear reiteration” from partner countries in the Sahel that they want France by their side.

Fighting Terrorists

Regarding possible peace talks with Islamist groups in Mali, Macron said the Algiers peace agreement provides a road-map for talks with political groups and those seeking autonomy. He said that doesn’t mean there should be discussions with terrorist groups.

“With terrorists, we don’t talk,” Macron said. “We fight.”

The French president said he’ll do “everything I can” to ensure a successful transition period for Abdelmadjid Tebboune, Algeria’s new president. He said the north African country is still facing a revolutionary movement, while there is also a demand for stability particularly in more rural regions.

“One doesn’t change a country, institutions and power structures in a few months,” Macron said. “There are also things that are not in line with our standards and that we’d like to see evolve.”

After visits to Angola and South Africa were delayed due to Covid-19, Macron said he hopes they can go ahead in the coming weeks, before a trip to Rwanda in 2021.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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