President Emmanuel Macron of France told African youths on Tuesday
that he belonged to a new generation of French leaders who would build
partnerships with the continent rather than tell it what to do.
But a youth protest against him, stones pelting one of his
delegation’s vehicles and a botched grenade attack on French troops
hours before his arrival in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou showed
the hostility that still lingers after decades of an often tense
Macron was also subjected to rowdy student questions at the university
after his speech in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou, and was
sometimes left fruitlessly hushing as he struggled to get his answers
heard above the crowd.
In his speech, peppered with references to African nationalists such
as Nelson Mandela and Burkina’s revolutionary leader Thomas Sankara,
Macron promised a break with a past in which France often seemed to
call the shots to former colonies.
“I am from a generation that doesn’t come to tell Africans what to
do,” Macron said during a speech to university students in the
Burkinabe capital Ouagadougou, prompting an applause.
“I am from a generation for whom Nelson Mandela’s victory is one of
the best political memories.”
The 39-year-old is on a three-day visit to Burkina Faso, Ghana and
Ivory Coast aimed at boosting cooperation in education, the digital
economy and migration.
“I will be alongside those who believe that Africa is neither a lost
continent or one that needs to be saved,” he said.
The grenade attack missed the French soldiers but wounded three
civilians hours before Macron arrived. No group claimed
Stones were thrown at a delegation convoy, however Macron was far away
from it at a meeting with his Burkina counterpart, Roch Marc Kabore in
the presidential palace.
Dozens of local youths clashed with security forces in the center of
the capital throwing stones. Police responded with teargas.
Protesters burnt T-shirts with images of Macron and carried slogans
including “Down with new-colonialism” and “French military out of
It was not the first time a French president has promised to break
with past French politics on the continent.
Macron’s predecessor Francois Hollande declared while visiting Senegal
in 2012 that “the time of La Francafrique is over”, referring to a
shadowy network of diplomats, soldiers and businessmen who manipulated
African leaders for decades after independence.
It comes at a tense time, when French troops are being sucked deeper
into a years-long battle to quell Islamist militancy in the Sahel
France has 4,000 troops deployed there, and there are mixed feelings
about their presence – highlighted in a bitter row between France and
Mali over the deaths of 11 Malian troops being held captive by
Islamist militants in a French air strike.
The French are pinning their hopes on the so-called G5 Sahel force
being set up by regional country’s with French and American backing.
It launched a campaign on Oct. 28 amid growing unrest in the desert
reaches of the region, where jihadists allied to al Qaeda or inspired
by Islamic State roam undetected.
Macron earlier told journalists G5 had been too slow to get established.
He said he would call for greater co-operation between Europe and
Africa to tackle human trafficking and he touted a European initiative
to rescue African migrants from being enslaved in Libya.
The exchange with heckling students was typical Macron, who during his
presidential campaign often managed to turn initially hostile crowds
in his favor by answering questions head on.
“You speak to me like I‘m a colonial power, but I don’t want to look
after electricity in Burkina Faso. That’s the work of your president,”
he retorted to one hostile questioner
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