(Bloomberg) — President Emmanuel Macron accused Russia of a “predatory” strategy to fuel anti-French sentiment in Africa, where France has suffered military setbacks and lost influence in recent years.
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Speaking to TV5 Monde while in Tunisia for a summit of French-speaking nations, Macron noted that three quarters of the people living in the African continent today are less than 25 years old, meaning they never knew French colonization.
Still, the past is being “used by multiple foreign powers, which try to use their influence,” the French leader said. The interview was conducted Saturday and posted on the channel’s website.
“Thanks to social media and disinformation, a political project financed by Russia and sometimes by others, the French are attacked,” Macron said.
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Macron said “multiple” foreign powers that “want to build their influence in Africa do this to hurt France, to hurt its language, to raise doubts but most of all to favor their own interests.”
The French leader is trying to counter Russian influence in Africa, including efforts to link this year’s food crisis to European sanctions. He’s pledged to revamp France’s military commitment to African security even as its soldiers have been leaving Mali, pushed out by the ruling junta there in favor of forces from Russia’s Wagner mercenary group.
Macron Tries To Push Back Against Russia Influence in Africa
French troops entered Mali in 2013 to stop al Qaeda-linked militants from advancing toward the capital, Bamako. They ended up staying as violence spilled across national borders in the Sahel region.
“One can very well look at what’s happening in central Africa or elsewhere to see what Russian project is being laid out,” Macron said. “It’s a predatory project” that’s been rolled out with the “complicity of a Russian military junta.”
France must keep engaging with the African continent, in particular with its younger population, the French president added.
Separately, in an interview with the newspaper Journal du Dimanche published on Sunday, Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu said France is rethinking its presence in another African country, Burkina Faso.
“It’s obvious that the review of our general strategy in Africa calls into question all the components of our presence,” Lecornu said.
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