French President Emmanuel Macro during his four-day trip across some of the former French colonies in Africa gave a public lecture on Tuesday at the Ouagadougou University in Burkina Faso. The French government pitched the trip as a political bridge-building initiative keen on resetting the relationship between France and Africa.
During his speech at Ouagadougou University, Macron talked on a lot of topics where France and Africa could mutually benefit each other. However, his speech about his country’s colonial past and the recent reports of slave auctions in Libya stood out the most. That is because the topic seemed to make him angry, and he had a hard time to hide it or be diplomatic about it.
For a Western Country President who says he grew up reading about Nelson Mandela and is of the school of thought the West should ‘not come to Africa to tell African what to do.’ His body language and the fact he seemed to lose his composure does very little to bring home the message ‘France does not tell Africa what to do.’
On the issue of French colonial past of his host country Burkina Faso among other African nations. President Macron said the “crimes of European colonization are indisputable.” Then he became somewhat patronizing on the ability of local authorities to tackle human trafficking from Africa to Europe.
— BFMTV (@BFMTV) November 28, 2017
Macron who seemed to have lost his cool said, “In Libya, we are engaged in diplomatic relations to find a political solution. Who are the traffickers? Ask yourselves – being the African youth – that question. You are unbelievable. Who are the traffickers? They are Africans, my friends. They are Africans. Ask yourselves the question.
It’s not the French who are the traffickers; it’s the Africans. So everyone should understand the responsibility, and we’ve started to do that, to dismantle them. But stop the argument saying, ‘it’s someone else.’
Show me a French, Belgian, German person, who carried out trafficking between Nigeria and Libya. This person doesn’t exist. So, these days in Africa, there are Africans who make other Africans slaves, this is the reality. And there are Europeans who benefit from this misery in Europe, it’s unacceptable in both cases, these are crimes. We are fighting both cases.”
A question was raised to Macron about the number of African students in France versus the number of French soldiers stationed in Africa. His response was talking only about the number of French soldiers who have died while on duty in Africa. Macron further went to tell the student who had raised that question, that they owe the French soldiers their applause.
Vous ne devez qu’une chose pour les soldats français : les applaudir ! pic.twitter.com/JqBj4fp39P
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) November 28, 2017
Violence and Protests marred Macron’s trip
Before his arrival in Burkina Faso, President Macron trip was marred by violence and protests. On Monday, a bus carrying French Soldiers was unsuccessfully attacked by two hooded assailants riding on a motorbike who threw a hand grenade towards the vehicle. However, the grenade seemed to have missed its target and left three civilians with injuries.
In a separate incident, a French delegation convoy was pelted with stoned which left at least one vehicle damaged. There was also protest near the University where Macron made his address on Tuesday.
France cannot run away from the Libya mess
Historically, North Africa has been a gateway for migrants traveling to Europe. However, the UNHCR notes that the instability in Libya that resulted from the 2011 civil war has aggravated human trafficking.
Though Macron kept mum about the issue, France as a country cannot run away from the mess in Libya. Given the fact, it spearheaded the Western countries bombardment of Libya and seeing to it that Muammar Gaddafi was ousted and the country sliding into anarchy.