French President Emmanuel Macron is in Cameroon for a three-day visit, the first leg of his three-nation African tour that will also take him to Benin and Guinea Bissau. Many hope that the 44-year old French president will encourage the 89-year old Cameroonian leader, Paul Biya, who has been in power for 40 years, since November 1982, to retire and facilitate a transition of power.
Officially, Macron is in Cameroon to strengthen trade and security ties with its former colony, discuss Boko Haram insurgency in the country’s far north, the lingering conflict in the Anglophone regions, the global food crisis exacerbated by Russia’s war in Ukraine and the need for Cameroon to increase its agricultural production. Macron is accompanied by French ministers of the Armed Forces, Foreign Affairs and Foreign Relations, as well as the French Secretary of State for Development.
While thousands of people have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced in Cameroon’s far north by Boko Haram, rebels in Cameroon’s English speaking minority have also been fighting since 2016 to have an independent country called Ambazonia.
Macron’s visit comes as China and Russia’s influence continues to grow in Cameroon. The central African nation has signed a defense treaty with Russia and has agreed for China to carry out mining, further reducing France’s influence there.
However, for many people in Cameroon, a country that has known only two presidents since independence from France in 1960, the expectations are that Mr. Macron will encourage Mr. Biya, who is more than twice his age, to retire.
The Associated Press quoted Prince Ekosso, the leader of the United Socialist Democratic Party, as saying that discussions between Biya and Macron should revolve around a peaceful transition of power and human rights in Cameroon.
Biya, who came to power in 1982, is accused of rigging elections and amending the constitution to die in power, accusations he has vehemently rejected, asserting that he has always won democratic elections fairly.
AP quoted Cameroon’s Consumers League as saying that Cameroon, Benin and Guinea Bissau, the three nations the French President is visiting, should ask Macron to reconsider EU trade sanctions on Russia following the invasion of Ukraine last February, arguing that the sanctions were causing fuel and wheat shortages and rising food prices across Africa.
Reports said the Cameroonian government gave Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon, a facelift for Macron’s visit, with bulldozers razing makeshift market stalls and shacks on all streets where Macron’s convoy will pass.