France’s Macron sets four-nation central African tour

French President Emmanuel Macron will next week undertake a four-nation tour of central African countries, the presidency said Thursday, as Paris seeks to counter growing Chinese and Russian influence in the region.

Macron is to visit Gabon for an environmental summit, followed by Angola, then the Republic of Congo, and finally the Democratic Republic of Congo.

His visits come as alarm grows in Paris over the growing role of Russia in French-speaking African countries, alongside a Chinese push for influence that has been apparent for some years.

France and its Western allies accuse the Russian Wagner mercenary group, notorious for its activities in Syria and Ukraine, of being active in Mali, forcing France to pull out troops on anti-extremist missions, and the Central African Republic.

Paris has also accused Russia of spreading disinformation to undermine French interests in its former colonies.

Macron will arrive in Gabon on March 1 to attend the One Forest Summit seeking to preserve forests along the vast Congo river basin, said a French presidential official, asking not to be named.

He will then head to the former Portuguese colony of Angola as part of a drive to enhance French ties with anglophone and lusophone parts of Africa.

After the Republic of Congo, he will wind up his trip in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo on March 3-4. The Congo was ruled by Belgium in the colonial era.

Macron has insisted Africa is a priority of his second mandate in power and in July undertook a trip to Cameroon, Benin and Guinea-Bissau.

Pointing to the invasion of Ukraine, he then accused Russia of being “one of the last colonial imperial powers” and of waging a new form of “hybrid warfare” in the world.

To the frustration of the West, a number of powers in Africa, anxious to preserve their interests and keep a distance from the conflict, have joined China and India in refusing to take a position on the Russian offensive.

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