Emmanuel Macron is visiting Cameroon on Monday, the first leg of a four-day visit to Central Africa dedicated to food security, French investment and governance. There he will meet Paul Biya, the world’s oldest head of state in power for forty years, in the context of political uncertainty about his succession.
His first official tour begins with Emmanuel Macron, on Monday, 25 July, visiting Cameroon in Central Africa, three months after his re-election, then in Benin and finally in Guinea-Bissau.
A visit that marks a new phase in the French president’s African policy, after a first five-year term that dominated the fight against terrorism in the Sahel and the development of relations with English-speaking Africa.
The tour will therefore begin in the Cameroonian capital, Yaounde, where Emmanuel Macron is scheduled to meet 89-year-old Paul Biya on Tuesday, who has become one of the oldest presidents on the African continent after forty years of undivided power.
The discussion will focus on the new agricultural partnership to tackle the food crisis, the fight against terrorism, but also governance and the rule of law. A sensitive subject, which has already been the subject of difficult talks between the two leaders.
Negotiation and diplomatic hurdles
On October 7, 2018, Paul Biya was reappointed for a seventh term, scoring a landslide victory over his rival Maurice Kamto. To fight these results on the street, the opposition candidate, as well as many of his supporters, were arrested in January 2019, then finally released after nine months in custody. Underhand, the matter had been the subject of several exchanges between Emmanuel Macron and Paul Biya.
The amnesty involving a total of a hundred prisoners was announced five days before a meeting between French and Cameroonian leaders at a summit in Lyon.
A few months after the episode, on February 22, 2020, on the agricultural show, a Cameroonian activist Emmanuel Macron questioned the situation in the English-speaking region, where officials are fighting a separatist insurgency, accusing power . There massacre. The French president promised to put “maximum pressure” on Paul Biya to end human rights violations.
An exit was praised by the Cameroonian government, which confirmed it intended to “remain the master of your destiny”. At the same time, several hundred people demonstrated in front of the French embassy in Yaounde, demanding an “apology” from France.
“If they both reflect the authoritarianism of the Cameroonian regime, then the question of political prisoners and the management of the separatist conflict are two very different issues”, underlines associate researcher Thierry Virkoulon at the Africa Center of IFRI (French Institute for International).
“Maurice Kamto is not the first political prisoner to be released by France; François Hollande had already managed to oust Michel Thierry Atangana, an engineer who had spent seventeen years in prison. But on the question of the separatists, It’s another story; Emmanuel Macron has hit the wall. Because in the age of Paul Biya, you don’t change the software: he has experienced a centralization of power and has no intention of changing. Part of this is to English speakers. hand over”.
strengthen strategic partnership
Elysee confirms that Emmanuel Macron’s visit will be an opportunity to take a fresh look at this ongoing conflict and in particular the commitments made by the government. But “it is by no means a question of positioning oneself as a teacher or promoting a model”, we say.
The stated aim of the visit is above all to forge a new agricultural partnership with Cameroon, the leading economy in Central Africa, while the food crisis caused by the war in Ukraine threatens the continent.
Investments by French companies will also be on the agenda in the context of stronger competition, as the country continues to strengthen its ties with China, its main supplier, and recently signed a military agreement with Russia.
“Through this visit, Paris seeks to ensure the loyalty of Cameroon’s partner in the context of the loss of influence in its East African backyard, as demonstrated by the examples of Mali, Central Africa and to a lesser extent Guinea and Burkina Faso” , analyzes Nicanor Tachim, doctor in political communication at the University of Paris-Est Creteille. Cameroonian experts recall that a partnership with the country is essential for Paris, due to its strategic role in supplying the sub-region, and especially Chad, where France has a military base.
For Cameroonian researcher Larissa Kojoue, there is no doubt that the visit marks a change in the tone of Cameroonian power.
“Upon his arrival in the elysée, Emmanuel Macron wanted to adopt a form of breakdown in the African policy of France, especially in comparison to its former colonies”, analyzes the teacher of political science at the University of Buea, in the Southwest of the Country. “He took a fairly critical position with the Cameroonian authorities, but since then we have a feeling he has softened his speech, getting caught up in the systemic relationship between Paris and the continent, which puts economic interests at the fore than the rule of law’.
Shadow of Paul Biya’s Succession
Larissa Kojoue also wonders about the message of the visit, while the country is plunged into a period of political uncertainty as the country approaches succession.
“Paul Biya’s greatest political victory has been in convincing the people that there was nothing after him, to stay in power all these years. He duly dismissed all those who had anythe political project. , including his own camp. Today, the name of his son, Franck Biya, is aired as a possible successor. Like it or not, Emmanuel Macron, visiting Cameroon on an official visit , certainly strengthens the President in his position.”
“The arrival of the French president concerns the expatriate as part of the population in Cameroon, with respect to time”, underlines Nicanor Tachim. “A presidential election will be held in 2025. As the regime nears the end of its reign, some see the arrival of Emmanuel Macron as a desire to prepare for the post-Biya period”.
As the visit drew near, opposition MP Jean-Michel Nintecheu issued a statement reflecting this concern. Criticizing France’s role in maintaining “the dictatorial and sometimes dynastic rule at the head of African states”, he affirmed that the people of Cameroon “will not accept anything imposed on them as supreme magistrate”. freely and democratically elected”.
“France is not organizing any transitions neither in Cameroon nor anywhere else, but in these political circumstances, our role is to maintain close relations with our negotiators,” Emmanuel’s Africa adviser Franck Paris said.
While Maurice Kamto, leader of the Movement for the Renaissance (MRC) of Cameroon, called on the French leader to meet with Cameroon’s opposition during his visit, Elysee said such talks were “not in use”.
Emmanuel Macron’s advisor nevertheless specified that upstream or downstream contacts were possible with these movements.
Following his interview with Paul Biya, Emmanuel Macron will meet with youth representatives, as well as members of civil society, to address “all aspects of Cameroonian society”.
Culled from News84media