President Emmanuel Macron admits that France has a “debt” to Africa

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By Cellestine Olilo

Montpellier,

French President Emmanuel Macron says his country owes Africa, which he must now gradually repay.

At the first-ever France-Africa summit, which excluded politicians, the French leader said Africa’s relations with France, one of its former colonial masters, had not always been mutually beneficial. , but said that these are lessons to be learned in the future.

“France owes a debt to Africa, and we must now find ways to effectively pay this debt in a sustainable manner,” he said on Friday.

Macron spoke in the French city of Montpellier, in the presence of around 5,000 representatives from Africa, none of whom was a traditional politician, but mainly from French-speaking countries.

In his brief speech which preceded a roundtable with 12 young Africans, Macron acknowledged that Africa and France are linked at the hip and that it has now become evident that interdependence, collaboration and strong partnerships between the two parties will be the only solution for the problems which hamper good relations between France and Africa.

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Find practical solutions

“I have heard your concerns and I encourage all of you to be brutally honest and speak boldly so that together we can find practical solutions to our problems,” Macron said at the summit held for the purpose. to question the barriers. which prevent Africa and France from maintaining cordial relations.

The summit was held against a backdrop of heightened tensions between Africa and France, notably caused by instability in the Sahel region in Africa, and the various coups and attempts that have been observed in French-speaking Africa. , especially in Mali, Chad and Guinea.

In fact, of all the former French colonies in West Africa, only Senegal has not experienced a coup. Critics have argued that this instability is in part due to the way France has granted independence and the way it has kept its finger on the pulse of politics in those countries.

The meeting brought together entrepreneurs, sports personalities, cultural activists and researchers, directors, scientists and students.

No African head of state was invited, which was a notable change from previous summits. Benoît Verdeaux, former diplomat and current secretary general of the Montpellier Summit, said this was made necessary by the fact that the average age of the population in most of Africa is between 30 and 40 years old, and not typical elderly people. statesmen.

He also recognized that the monetary aid that France gives to African countries is neither sustainable nor helping countries to develop.

To do this, he promised to change the name of Agence France Développement and to restructure its mandate and operation. The FDA will be celebrating its 80th anniversary this year.

Bad relationship

Macron also referred to the bad relationship between France and Africa and pledged to do everything in his power to make this relationship improve.

Regarding the war in Mali and other West African states, Macron defended his position and said that France’s interventions in these states only intervene when needed and are never aimed at destabilize countries.

“I have never been to a military meeting to strategize against a sovereign head of state. But when presidents refuse to step down or hold elections, or seek to illegally extend their mandate, it is the duty of regional communities to intervene. This is our role. Support regional bodies to protect democracy and ensure peace and stability in struggling African states, ”Macron said.

He also dispelled the idea that he was seeking to isolate heads of state, saying that young people in Africa know exactly what they want and that their contribution would be very valuable in improving relations between his country and Africa. .

“Over the next decade, the average age of young Africans will be under 30. This means that the population will be dominated by adolescents and young people. And I believe it is this demography that holds the solutions to the challenges Africa and the world are facing today.

The partners

Kenya was represented on the 12-person panel by former radio presenter Adelle Onyango, who is now a blogger on the weekly show called ‘Legally clueless’.

“How do we resolve our pain when the source does not recognize it? We Africans still have memories of colonialism. Our parents keep telling us about it. It’s still fresh in their minds. It is not finished, nor forgotten. These are things that cause us a lot of suffering, and as long as France does not recognize its role in this period, relations between these two continents will continue to be strained, ”Adelle told the president.

A Burkinabé activist was particularly animated and informed the president that Africa would not accept being treated as anything other than partners.

“If Africa and France cook in the same pot, then the pot is dirty. And if you insist on cooking in this pot, we will not eat at your table, ”said the Burkinabé activist to mad cheers and loud applause.

“Stop cooperating and collaborating with these dictator presidents,” said Cheikh Fall, an influential Senegalese blogger who also asked President Macron to apologize first for the crimes committed by France during colonial times.

Macron responded by saying that asking for an apology is too easy and will not free France from its role in colonial history.

“We have apologized several times already for the role we played in Africa during colonial times, even though we were not the only culprits. I recognize the role we played in the triangular trade that led to slavery and will continue to do so. But apologizing is too easy. What we need is to come up with policies and recommendations that will truly appease Africa and bring back real collaboration and partnership between the two regions, ”he said.

Enthusiastic people

“This idea that Africa is a country of sad, poor and unemployed people is over. Forget that. This period is over. Africa is a continent of young people, optimistic and enthusiastic, ready to realize their full potential. But we cannot do it if France permanently suppresses any effort to ascend Africa. These are some of the things that cause us great pain, and we need to tackle these issues by first being brutally honest with each other, ”said Adam Dicko, a young activist from Mali.

Dicko also boldly said that in the event of war or coups in West Africa, foreign military interventions never solved anything.

Macron responded by saying that despite the opinion Africa has against France, he is proud to be French and that some of the problems of the past simply cannot be completely erased.

“I am proud to be French, just as you are proud to be Malian. I cannot erase the past. What I invite you to do is rewrite history with us. And I agree. We have to be brutally honest, starting with the story we teach our kids in school. It is important for us to document the correct facts from our past and to teach our children the truth about what happened, so that together we can rewrite a better story for the future. We don’t have to live with suspicion of each other or continually suspect each other based on problems from the past. With this approach, we will not go far, ”he said.

In conclusion, Macron announced that 26 works of art and other precious objects long sought by Benin will be returned to the country at the end of this month.


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