French president, Emmanuel Macron is visiting Cameroon on his first trip to Africa since his re-election last April. The visit also includes Benin and Guinea-Bissau.
The visit comes at a time when France is undertaking to “renovate” its military partnerships on the continent to maintain its strategic competition in the face of increasing influence by Turkey, China and Russia.
“Obviously it is very good news for Africa, Central Africa and Cameroon when we see the current socio-political context with the hostility of France in Mali, the war in Ukraine, it is a very good thing. France is coming to Cameroon to warm up its relations and strengthen its support when we know the strategic role that Cameroon plays in Central Africa. It is a very good visit now”, said Cameroonian banker Ndzomo Essomba Henri.
Food crisis and security top the agenda with the effects of the war in Ukraine in the supply of grain being a major concern; many also want human rights to feature prominently in the discussions between Macron and the Cameroonian president, Paul Byia.
“We know that France is a country of human rights – everyone has their faults – but it is a country of human rights and it would not be good for President Macron to come here and not put the human rights issues, which are well respected in France, on the table with his counterpart. That is our wish”, affirmed Maximilienne Ngo Mbe, Executive Director of Redhac (the Central African Human Rights Defenders Network).
Cameroon has been riven by ethnic violence and an insurgency by anglophone separatists. Some would like the French president to meet with members of the opposition.
“We believe that, apart from the political prisoners of the MRC, there is also the question of the release of the presumed political prisoners of the Anglophone crisis. Why would the French president not also meet with the leaders of the Anglophone secessionist claims as well as the political leaders of the opposition in Cameroon”, said Pierre Emmanuel Binyam, communication officer of opposition party, the Movement for the Renaissance of Cameroon, MRC.
On Wednesday, Macron will travel to Benin, followed by Guinea-Bissau on Thursday, whose President Umaro Sissoco Embalo is preparing to take the helm of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).