Dozen anti-French protestors from the Democratic Republic of the Congo blocked commuters on a major street in the capital Kinshasa while yelling into megaphones and handing out flyers to encourage resistance to the visit of French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday.
Prior to Macron’s arrival for the final stage of a trip to central Africa, during which he has worked to distance himself from France’s colonial past, their campaign was one of a few protests that took place this week in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
While the eastern areas of Congo are fighting an onslaught by the M23 rebel group that Congo accuses Rwanda of supporting, the country was not a former French colony, but suspicions of French support for the neighboring country of Rwanda have fueled anti-French sentiment. This is denied by Rwanda.
Together with the Congo, the United Nations, and other nations, France has also denied favoring Kigali and accused Rwanda of backing the M23. Yet, it has come under fire in Congo for failing to make a swift and forceful statement.
Tonny Djoli, an activist who was sporting a t-shirt that read “Rwanda Is Killing,” claimed that France was diverting its focus to Central Africa as a result of a breakdown in relations with its former West African colonies. He claimed that Macron was coming to Kinshasa to attempt to seduce us because he knew that much of West Africa had abandoned France.
As a deteriorating security situation in West Africa’s Sahel area stoked anti-French demonstrations and installed juntas in Burkina Faso and Mali that have renounced long-standing military ties with Paris, Macron unveiled a new Africa strategy in a speech on Monday. With fewer French personnel on the ground, France intends to manage military bases in Africa in conjunction with host countries under the new ideas.
Macron has worked hard to dispel the reputation of being a former colonial power driven by monetary gain. His itinerary, which calls for stops in Gabon, Angola, and the Congo Republic, points to an interest in both the natural world and local cultures.
But his first visits to these four nations during his administration coincide with a flurry of African trips by high-ranking American, Russian, and Chinese officials, fueling rumors of rival world powers vying for influence on the continent. On Wednesday, some 100 Congolese demonstrators yelled in front of the French embassy in Kinshasa. One had written, in bold red letters, “Macron, get away” on its wall.
“We are the victims of France here in the Congo. The French president who has interacted with Rwanda the most is Macron. There is no place for Macron” – the Organization Urgence Panafricaniste member Maud-Salome Ekila remarked. A Macron advisor who was traveling with him claimed that the protest was an attempt to get France to choose sides. We clearly want to protect both the risk of escalation and the territorial integrity of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
A tiny contingent of demonstrators carrying Russian flags showed up at the embassy, but the organizers of the bigger anti-French demonstration said they had nothing to do with them. Ekila declared, “We will never swap one imperialist for another”.
In Goma, the capital of the eastern province of Congo that has been the most adversely affected by the M23 rebellion that has caused more than 600,000 people to flee their homes since last year, demonstrators attempted to assemble on Thursday but were dispersed. There are numerous hopes or disappointments for France, according to Trésor Kibangula, a political analyst at the Ebuteli Institute, a research center in the Democratic Republic of the Congo funded by New York University.
Macron had a difficult diplomatic balancing act to perform because of France’s interests in Mozambique and the Central African Republic, where Rwandan troops are assisting governments fight militants. “On the one hand, he must denounce what is occurring with the M23 and Kigali’s assistance, but on the other, he does not wish to denounce a friend who supports France” – Kibangula told.