By Yusinyu Omer in Yaoundé
President Emmanuel Macron on Monday July 25, 2022 began a three-nation tour of western African states, beginning with Cameroon in his first trip to Africa since his re-election last April for the second term as president of France.
He was received at the Nsimalen international airport in Yaoundé by the prime minister and head of government Chief Dr Joseph Dion Ngute, alongside other members of government as well as local authorities.
Makeshift market stalls as well as roadside buildings could be seen being raised by bulldozers on Monday morning in Tongolo, in preparation for the visit. According to one of the stall owners, Julio Evina, businesses along some major streets inYaoundé have been destroyed thereby rendering so many families hungry simply because French President Emmanuel Macron will be visiting Cameroon. He says if not for Macron’s visit, he is certain that the government would not have filled potholes that have been causing accidents on roads in Yaoundé.
Before his arrival on Monday evening, some Cameroonians have been expressing themselves on what they wished could be at the center of discussion between the two head of states, if they were given the opportunity to make proposals.
“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.
“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).
“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.
In a meeting with the French community in Cameroon on Tuesday, July 26, 2022, president Macron said “We are blamed by some who say that European sanctions on Russia are the cause of the world food crisis, including in Africa. It is totally false. Food, like energy have become Russian weapons of war … We must help the African continent to produce more for itself”.
As far as security in the continent is concerned, Macron said “France remains resolutely committed to the security of the continent, acting in support and at the request of our African partners. will not relinquish the security of the African continent”.
Moscow has also denied responsibility for the food crisis, but blaming Western sanctions for slowing its food and fertilizer exports and Ukraine for mining the approaches to its ports.
Cameroon, a mineral-rich central African nation, is a major food producer for the region and Macron’s delegation seek to create more opportunities and invest more in the agricultural sector through a Food and Agriculture Resilience Mission initiative launched in March with the African Union to boost food production.
Meeting on Tuesday with Cameroon’s 89-year-old president, Paul Biya, Macron said the reconfigured mission in Africa will extend “beyond the Sahel, to the Gulf of Guinea and second-layer countries which now have to face terrorist groups which are expanding and shaking up the whole region”
He equally promised at a press conference with Biya, that France’s archives on colonial rule in Cameroon would be opened “in full” and hoped historians from both countries would work together to investigate “painful moments”.