France’s Macron embarks on tour of four Central African countries

French President Emmanuel Macron will tour four Central African countries next week, the president said on Thursday as Paris seeks to counter the growing influence of China and Russia in the region.

Macron is due to visit Gabon for an environmental summit, then Angola, then the Republic of the Congo and finally the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Russian influence

His visits come at a time when worries are growing in Paris over Russia’s growing role in French-speaking African countries, as well as China’s yearning for influence, which has been around for several years.

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France and its Western allies accuse the Russian Wagner mercenary group, known for its activities in Syria and Ukraine, of being active in Mali, forcing France to withdraw troops on anti-jihadist missions, and in the Central African Republic.

Paris also accused Russia of spreading disinformation to undermine France’s interests in its former colonies.

Macron will arrive in Gabon on March 1 to attend the One Forest Summit, which aims to conserve forests along the vast Congo Basin, a spokesman for the French president said, who asked not to be named.

He will then head to the former Portuguese colony of Angola to strengthen France’s ties with the English-speaking and Portuguese-speaking parts of Africa.

After the Republic of the Congo, he will finish his trip to the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo on 3-4 March. During the colonial era, the Congo was ruled by Belgium.

Macron: Africa is a priority

Macron has insisted that Africa is a priority for his second term in office and traveled to Cameroon, Benin and Guinea-Bissau in July.

Pointing to the invasion of Ukraine, he then accused Russia of being “one of the last colonial imperial powers” and waging a new form of “hybrid warfare” in the world.

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To the dismay of the West, a number of African powers seeking to protect their interests and keep their distance from the conflict have joined China and India in refusing to take a stand on the Russian offensive.