The Two Faces of Emmanuel Macron in Africa
How France’s president anoints himself in lies, treachery and smear campaigns in the African continent.
African elites can no longer fake it for Macron or the French. The days of when they were obliged to humour French presidents that France still wielded its power across the continent in the post-independence period are long gone, which was proved by Macron’s shameful press conference where he spoke down to the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s president Felix Tshisekedi. With France’s decline from the world stage – and in particular Africa – and the emergence of Russia and China as more serious investors in the continent, it was perhaps inevitable that a tantrum of some sort was on the cards. But with the outburst, came a baptism of lies.
The irony of that press conference though is that Macron patronized the DRC president from beginning to end, even suggesting that the African leader could not distinguish between the state and the media due to the DRC’s apparent arrested development of freedom of press.
Even that was a lie. Ironically it was France’s own media who failed to hold Macron to account over a cluster of other lies peddled at the conference, which the Kinshasa elite would no doubt have noted as they look back at the event. It is true that France’s perspective and how it reports on African elections is seen through a paternalistic, colonial viewpoint. But Macron claiming that it was not France’s fault that Rwanda currently is creating some real problems in a part of Congo – and that its militia M23, which even French lovie-duvie liberal media admit is funded by Kigali – is another insult to the intelligence of the DRC leader and his cabal of advisors. Tshisekedi outclassed Macron at the press conference and held back from saying the truth: France today is backing the Paul Kagame government in Kigali and considers it a key ally and so Macron’s pitiful claims of innocence are salt in the wounds of the Congolese. Perhaps this is what the DRC president meant when he asked Macron to treat him and his people as equals. Stop lying to us and treating us like children as we know what you’re doing in Rwanda.
In fact, Macron’s egregious lying to African leaders is so prolific that many simply accept it as the price they have to pay to work with him. The deficit that France has in Africa now in terms of negative hegemony has left Macron with only one real policy there which is to have two distinct policies running in tandem: the narrative and the more nefarious reality. Rwanda is actually a good example how this model of diplomacy actually goes much farther back than Macron though and he is merely keeping tradition alive. While the whole world watched in horror as a genocide took place there in April 1994, France preached from a high ground and claimed it had nothing to do with the blood bath. In reality, the terror campaign which installed fear in Hutus, was created and run entirely by Mitterrand’s government with his son actually in charge of the disinformation program called “Reseau Zero”. The French have a lot of blood on their hands in Rwanda.
But Macron is happy to play the role of champion liar and supreme hypocrite. It’s as though he was made for the job as he excels at this both in Africa and on the world stage. World leaders look at how he works so closely with Putin and yet is a chief supporter of the Ukraine war; how he ignored Wagner mercenaries for so long in Mali until they overthrew his own troops – who were there based on an even bigger lie to U.S. and the EU which was all about fighting terrorists (in reality it was about protecting French expats in French multinationals).
Many African leaders put up with the rank hypocrisy and appalling duplicity. Yet the tide is certainly turning with those who can see through the cheap trickery and patronising treatment and also those who simply say “ça suffit”. Enough.
The DRC president is not the only one to openly show his fatigue with the lies which are expected to be accepted by African leaders. In Morocco, the king and his government are also making a similar stand against Macron who recently made an impressive if not heart-warming speech about his affections and respect for Morocco claiming that the recent all-time low of relations between Paris and Rabat was down to unknown individuals stirring up trouble.
“We have had several discussions, there are personal relations that are friendly and they will remain so. There are always people who try to highlight incidents, scandals in the European Parliament, and listen to topics that have been revealed by the press,” he said speaking of the Moroccan king.
Remarkably, he shirked France’s responsibility in the recent hostile campaign targeting Morocco at the European Parliament, stressing that his government had “nothing to do” with the parliament’s adoption of a hostile resolution targeting Morocco.
“Is it the doing of the French government? No! Did France pour oil on the fire? No! We must move forward despite these controversies but finally without adding to it,” he said.
Impressive stuff. But again a shocking example of how far Macron will go with his bare-faced lies and insulting colonial tutelage when talking to Africans – even to Moroccans which are considered to have an even more special history and relations with France.
Macron was in fact behind the European parliament campaign to hit Morocco as it was a close friend who is a lobbyist in Brussels who masterminded the whole thing. The media in France – the same journalists who can’t even hold him and his claims to account in Africa – also kicked the Moroccans when they were down and is probably his own handiwork.
But it’s so much more of a dirty game with Morocco and really gives observers a glimpse into what a Machiavellian champion of hypocrisy, lies and deceit is this odious French leader, whom the author once described in a British newspaper as a “weasel”. For many Moroccans, the poor relations between France and the EU and Morocco is due to the bribery scandal which backfired on Rabat, France’s reluctance to give the green light to Morocco over its bid for sovereignty of Western Sahara and of course the blanket ban on visas for Moroccans wishing to travel to France.
Could there be an even more nefarious scheme at play which justifies why Macron bans even Moroccan academics, doctors and others from the middle classes to even visit France? Does Macron have his own dirty agenda to put Morocco down?
According to one respected Moroccan academic, writing recently in Maghrebi.org, this is exactly the case. Youseff Al Kaidi claims that Morocco’s success in recent years with “soft power” in Africa has given Rabat a clear advantage over Paris in Africa.
According to his article, the French General Directorate for External Security “cannot stomach the rise of another Turkey in the region”. He claims that a “former French ambassador to Rabat, now retired, told Maghreb Intelligence” that “the [French] smear machine is in motion and all means are at its disposal to achieve its objective: to weaken the Kingdom of Morocco by sullying its reputation.”
“This attack by the EU in general and France in particular is driven by the desire to keep Morocco hostage to European/French economic and political control. Wrenching and wriggling free from France’s grip is a bitter pill for the French who have long viewed Morocco as its little French poodle” claims the professor at Sais Fes University.
But it’s not only the Moroccans who believe this theory. Al Kaidi backs it up with views from U.S. congressmen. Former U.S. Congressman Michael Patrick Flanagan asserted in February that Europe’s long-standing interest is in “obstructing Moroccan growth into world markets” beyond those that are “captured” by Europe, and as a result the EU negatively distorts Morocco’s image on the world stage to try to maintain its consumer market share.
Given that Macron is so obsessed with trying to secure French business in Africa and his almost incestuous relationship with the EU, which he manipulates always to his own advantage (who can forget his failed attempts at trying to get the EU to punish the UK over France’s fishing row with Britain leaked in a letter?), the Moroccan professor’s claims of a wicked EU campaign are credible and can be linked to Macron’s twofaced behaviour towards Morocco. It is clear that France’s objectives are always to keep Africa poor and backward so that the former colonial ruler can exert its own ‘soft power’ over its elites and exploit the circumstances. And Emmanuel Macron has proved himself to be a superlative example of a treacherous French leader who presides over a country whose dark past cannot be ignored when it is viewed through the same prism of today’s events with Macron’s barrage of lies which he is peddling in Africa.