France Pushed to the Wall: Unwanted Emmanuel Macron in Yaounde
France Pushed to the Wall: Unwanted Emmanuel Macron in Yaounde
Cameroon-France: why Emmanuel Macron is going to Yaoundé
Crucial economic issues, Russian influence, political issues… The French president did not choose Cameroon at random, a historic ally with whom the relationship has been mistreated. Explanations.
Emmanuel Macron should land in Yaoundé on July 25, around 8 p.m., and stay at the Hilton hotel. The French president is making this trip, among others, on the advice of Jean-Yves Le Drian. The latter, when he was still Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, worked there with Emmanuel de Tailly, foreign trade adviser, close to former Prime Minister Édouard Philippe and CEO of the SABC group until June 31 last.
Economic issues will of course be on the menu of discussions, while a meeting with employers, led by Célestin Tawamba, is, according to our information, planned.
France in competition
The sequence has something unprecedented in the history of Franco-Cameroonian relations. From François Mitterrand to François Hollande, President Paul Biya had become accustomed since the beginning of his reign, in 1982, to friendly pressure, criticism and advice formulated on the white leather sofas of the Etoudi palace, far from view and prying ears. He himself could allow himself in front of a Mr. Holland, soon promised to alternate, to declare, sardonically: “Does not last in power who wants, but lasts who can. “ And then, while neither the place nor the moment seemed to lend itself to a great public unpacking, Saturday, February 22, Emmanuel Macron was arrested at the Agricultural Show by a Cameroonian activist.
“Mr. Macron, there is Paul Biya who kills Cameroonians! Mr. Macron, there is a genocide in Cameroon! shouts Abdoulaye Thiam , better known under the pseudonym of Calibri Calibro. The leader of the Anti-Sardinards Brigade, one of the most virulent opposition groups, had already stood out for the ransacking of his country’s embassy in Paris and in demonstrations in Geneva, hitherto a peaceful haven of the Cameroonian presidential couple, but he surely did not imagine the communication coup to come.
Without protocol, Emmanuel Macron comes to meet him, and retorts: “I put pressure on Paul Biya to deal with the subject of the English-speaking area and its opponents. I said that I don’t want to see each other in Lyon until Kamto is released [the opponent, imprisoned from January to October 2019] . He was released because we put pressure on him. There, the situation is deteriorating. I will call President Biya next week and we will put the maximum pressure so that this situation ends. I am totally aware and totally involved in the violence that is happening in Cameroon and which is intolerable. »
After “the convocation” of the Heads of State of the Sahel in Pau so that they reaffirm their alliance with France in the fight against the jihadists, here is once again the word of the French president far from diplomatic uses. Social networks do the rest to transport the video in Cameroon and among the diaspora. At the presidential palace, it is amazement. A protest march is organized on Monday in front of the French Embassy. The few hundred participants brandish side by side the sovereignty of Cameroon and the duty of respect towards the Head of State. The press close to power competes with comments. “President Macron a little dress and restraint, Cameroon is not a French town hall”, title Réalités .“The slippages of a white supremacist [sic] named Macron,” adds Essingan .
But how to react frontally to one of your main partners, generally much more benevolent in his last public statements than the American ally? The eight-page communiqué, published on Sunday, by the Ministry of Communication is a model of avoidance. “The government unreservedly condemns the act of this individual. (…) urges friendly countries and all Cameroon’s partners not to give credit to activists, adventurers or madmen who are manipulated and exploited…” He just concludes by recalling that “the Cameroonian people intends to remain master of its destiny”. The next day, that of the secretary general of the presidency is more direct. He ” firmly rejects both the false allegations of the said activist and the surprising remarks of the President of the French Republic ” and assures that ” the President of the Republic is fully committed to the accomplishment of the heavy and exalting mission that Almighty God and the sovereign people have entrusted to it and does not need any outside pressure to do so. »
“We are stunned, the French president knows the meaning of the words. How can he pass up charges of genocide? Declare that he will put pressure? If an African president had derailed like that, what would we say? », Takes offense a close friend of Paul Biya, while taking care to recall that « secular friendship transcends the men who pass ». In fact, the French ambassador was not dismissed, nor even summoned.
At the other end of the political spectrum, lawyer and human rights activist Alice Nkom is jubilant. “Macron was great. He did not place himself at the level of the interests of States, but of that of human beings , she said. Biya has become a dangerous and cumbersome friend. He is deaf to all advice and the small river of blood that flowed through the English-speaking regions has become an ocean. There he is on the ropes. Tell Macron he has won a lot of supporters here and give him my thanks. »
A step in the horror
A French president suddenly appreciated in Cameroon? In this country where Francophilia does not have a tradition of being brandished like a banner, the observation is certainly exaggerated, but it also reflects the current degree of polarization of local political life and the drama that continues to play out in the English-speaking regions of the country.
While the army has embarked in recent months on an operation to recapture urban centers in the North West and South West, the two regions remain the scene of clashes between government forces and separatist militias. For nearly three years, the conflict has claimed more than 3,000 lives and forced 700,000 people to flee their homes.
On February 14, a notch in the horror was crossed. At least 21 civilians, including 13 children and a pregnant woman, were killed in the village of Ngarbuh, according to Human Rights Watch. According to the NGO but also other reliable sources, the massacre was perpetrated by soldiers and Fulani militiamen, a community of breeders regularly subjected to looting by separatists. Yaoundé recognizes only five victims, who died after fighting led to the accidental explosion of fuel tanks. The UN has called for an “independent, impartial and full” investigation. France and the United States also plead in this direction. To this, the Cameroonian presidency responded by creating a national commission of inquiry.“We are a functioning state. Keep your doubts, we know the reality ”, asserts a personality of power.
On Sunday March 1, the Cameroonian and French presidents finally spoke to each other. According to the Elysée, the telephone conversation would have enabled the two heads of state to agree on “the need for an impartial investigation in response to the violence committed against civilian populations in the village of Ngarbuh”.