YAOUNDE, Cameroon (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron, in Cameroon to start his 3-nation Africa tour, is expected to discuss the food crisis in Africa provoked by Russia’s war in Ukraine, the need for Cameroon to increase its agricultural production and the country’s upsurge in insecurity.
In Yaounde, Cameroon’s capital, for a three-day visit to this central African country, Macron then visit Benin and Guinea Bissau.
The Cameroon government gave the capital a facelift for Macron’s visit. Bulldozers razed makeshift market stalls and shacks on all streets in Yaounde where Macron’s envoy will pass.
“They have destroyed my only source of livelihood,” said Solange Kemje, 28, among the several hundred stall owners affected.
Others welcomed the visit of France’s leader, hoping that Macron will extend help in the face of rising insecurity from jihadi violence that has spilled over from neighboring Nigeria.
The central African state is also battling a separatist conflict that has killed at least 3,300 people and displaced more than 750,000 in five years, according to the U.N. Rebels are fighting for Cameroon’s English-speaking minority to have an independent country called Ambazonia.
Some hope that hope Macron will influence President Paul Biya to end the use of force as a solution to the separatist crisis in Cameroon’s English-speaking regions, Capo Daniel, deputy defense chief of the Ambazonia Defense Forces, one of the separatist groups, said.
“One of our factions in our liberation movement called for a lockdown to protest Emmanuel Macron’s visit. But other movements will be watching this event with the hope that Emmanuel Macron will push Paul Biya to choose the path of peaceful resolution of the war (of separatist violence) as an alternative to the current posture of the state of Cameroon to use war to resolve the problem with Ambazonia,” Capo said.
Cameroon says France supports its military to fight separatists and the jihadi violence from Nigeria’s Boko Haram rebels but has given no details on how many weapons have been received from France.
Others hope that Macron will encourage Cameroon’s 89-year-old President Paul Biya, who has been in power for close to 40 years, to retire.
“The discussion should go around a peaceful transition of power in Cameroon and also the issues of human rights and democracy in Cameroon,” Prince Ekosso, leader of the United Socialist Democratic Party said.
Biya is accused of rigging elections in order to stay in power until he dies. Biya maintains he has always won democratic elections fairly.
Cameroon has signed a defense treaty with Russia and has agreed for China to carry out mining, both of which reduced the influence of France in the country, he said.
Cameroon, Benin and Guinea Bissau should ask Macron to reconsider EU trade sanctions on Russia, Cameroon’s Consumers League said. The consumer advocacy group blames the EU sanctions for fuel and wheat shortages and rising food prices across Africa.
Macron will likely try to strengthen multilateral cooperation to stop the spread of jihadi terrorism across West Africa including in Cameroon, Benin and Togo, Kulu said.
Macron is accompanied by the French ministers of Foreign Affairs, Armed Forces and Foreign Relations, as well as the French Secretary of State for Development.