Protests, Trade Deals, Anti-French Sentiment Mark Hollande’s Trip To Africa
Even before French President François Hollande stepped on to Cameroonian soil on Friday, there were protests and a heated debate about France’s influence.
Awudu Mbaya Cyprian, a lawmaker from Cameroon’s main opposition party, the Social Democratic Front questioned what he called France’s domination of Cameroon’s political, social and economic life.
Cameroon uses English and French as its official languages. But Awudu Mbaya said the country’s authorities are neglecting the English language. “It is a thing that is boiling in the hearts of all English speaking Cameroonians. I decided to pull down all signposts that were written only in French language without the English equivalent.”
There is also growing anti-French sentiment triggered by what is seen as France’s control of Cameroon’s economy. According to Yimgaim Moyo Theophile, leader of the Citizens Movement political party, a pre-independence trade deal between France and Cameroon signed in 1948, favors the French. “Bilateral agreements between France and Cameroon authorize mostly French enterprises to exploit most of Cameroon forest and mining resources,” Yimgaim Moyo told DW.
Protesters in the city of Douala on Thursday destroyed the statue of French General Jacques-Phillipe Leclerc. He is credited for liberating Paris from Nazi Germany in 1944. The Cameroonian government condemned the incident, insisting that the nation had benefitted a lot from France.
Relations between Cameroon and France are at their lowest with many Cameroonians openly accusing Paris of arming Nigeria’s Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram. While on a visit to Cameroon earlier in March, Chad’s Communication Minister Hassan Sylla Ben Bakary said 40 percent of arms and military equipment used by Boko Haram originated in France.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius rebuffed the allegations as a “horrible figment of imagination.” He said if any country was committed to fighting Boko Haram, it was France.
Together with Chad, Niger, Benin and Nigeria, Cameroonian troops are engaged in an offensive against Nigeria’s Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram. Despite the criticisms, defeating Boko Haram was one of the main items on the agenda of Hollande’s trip to Cameroon.
Accompanied by scores of business people and investors to Luanda, Angola’s capital, Hollande praised the oil-rich nation as a force for stability in Africa. An article published by Radio France International (RFI), said representatives of Accor, a French hotel conglomerate, signed a deal to run 50 hotels in Angola.
Upon his arrival, Hollande acknowledged that France and Angola have not always enjoyed a cordial relationship. “We have been trying to strengthen them for several years now,” the 60-year old French leader said.
Human rights activists criticized Hollande for focusing on economic interests while ignoring Dos Santos’ deplorable rights record. Fifteen activists are still in detention accused of plotting a “rebellion.”
In an interview with france 24, Claudio Da Silva, a Luanda-based entrepreneur and friend of a number of the detained activists said Hollande’s priority in Angola was business. “When foreign leaders come to Angola, they don’t mention human rights,” Da Silva said.
Read more at DW.