Macron promises more aid for Congo
fFrance President Emmanuel Macron promised humanitarian aid for the people in the region in the east of the country, which has been fought over for years, during his state visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which ended on Saturday. Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi had also urged the French guest to support sanctions against neighboring Rwanda, which he accused of “systematic looting”.
Macron said he made it very clear that he condemned the M23 rebel organization and its supporters. Nevertheless, he has confidence that the previous peace talks have been successful. If agreements are not respected, then there could be sanctions, he said, without naming names or giving more details. There had been some protests in Kinshasa against the French President’s visit. Congo used to be a Belgian colony rather than a French one, but France is considered by some to be an ally of Rwanda.
In eastern Congo, the notorious rebel group M23 has been carrying out attacks again on a regular basis since November 2021. The re-emergence of the group, which was thought to have been dormant for nearly a decade, sparked the conflict between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda aggravated. The Congolese government accuses Rwanda of supporting the M23. Conversely, Rwanda accuses the government in Kinshasa of equipping another terrorist group and thereby endangering the security of its own population.
The conflict is no longer being fought only at the diplomatic and political level. In January, Rwanda’s military fired on a Congolese warplane because it said it had invaded their airspace. The government in Congo accused Rwanda of an act of war. At a summit in Angola in November, African government officials agreed on an “immediate ceasefire” and the rebels’ withdrawal. But so far the agreement has had no effect.
According to the European Union, more than 600,000 people were displaced in eastern Congo as a result of the M23 invasion. Around 240,000 lived outside the provincial capital of Goma in makeshift dwellings under extremely harsh conditions. France’s support relates to the establishment of a “humanitarian airlift” announced by the EU Commission on Saturday. In this way, medicines, food and emergency equipment should reach Goma. In addition, the EU 47 million euros for immediate crisis aid by humanitarian partner organizations.
Macron: Military bases are remnants of the colonial past
At the start of the trip, Macron announced a U-turn in French Africa policy in a speech in Paris. France will “visibly reduce” its military presence on the continent. The military bases are a remnant of the colonial past, with which he wants to end. France is striving for a new “balanced, responsible and mutual” partnership with Africa.
The trip comes at a time when anti-French sentiment is rife in some former French colonies, while Russia is expanding its influence on the continent. France has been forced to withdraw its troops from Mali and recently also from Burkina Faso because the military governments there work closely with Russia. According to reports, mercenaries from the Wagner Group are deployed in Mali.
The French President’s trip to Africa had previously taken him to Gabon, Angola and Congo. In Angola, Macron announced, among other things, more intensive cooperation in agriculture and called the oil-rich country a “strategic partner”. In Gabon he also met the President of the Central African Republic, which also cooperates intensively with Russia. France withdrew its troops there at the end of last year.