At Afro-France summit, African youth challenge Macron

Coming from across the continent, young Africans clearly expressed their hopes and disappointments over democracy and relations with France, appealing directly to President Emmanuel Macron during an unprecedented summit in Montpellier (South), which focused on civil society. Word supported.

Arriving late in the morning, Emmanuel Macron, the host and the only president of this summit without heads of state, went from round table to round table, before the plenary meeting scheduled for the afternoon. At a stand dedicated to the restoration of looted works, the head of state announced that at the end of October France would return 26 works of art from the “Trésor de Behanzin” to Benin, looted in 1892 at the Abomi Palace during the colonial Were. Warning

It thus honors the commitment made in November 2018 within the framework of this “new relationship” that France seeks to make with the continent and whose return is one of the main points.

During his walk, the president was arrested on several occasions. “I can no longer see African youth dying in the Mediterranean” launched one woman, arriving in Europe.

A young Guinean urged him to “support the Guinean transition” after Putin who overthrew President Alpha Condé in September, of which Mr Macron agreed that “a third term was not appropriate”.

– Expectations and disappointments –

This Afro-France summit wanted to give a floor to civil society and for the first time since 1973 excluded heads of state from the continent.

From Burkina Faso, Mali, Democratic Republic of Congo, Morocco… Young guests had much to say to France about colonial heritage, visa policy or development aid. From the opening of the summit, which had invited approximately 3,000 people, the Round Table “Civil Engagement and Democracy” attracted many spectators and speakers.

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“We hope that Montpellier will be a new beginning. Let us listen to the African Maidan, the African youth, they have things to say to the world and to France,” said Bakery Sambe, director of the Timbuktu Institute.

Referring to the recent decision in Paris to drastically reduce the number of visas for Algerians, Moroccans and Tunisians, Mahdi Aloua, professor of political science in Rabat, condemned the “collective punishment” and called the visa policy a “system disgrace.” (and)”. Annoyance”, to the applause of the audience.

The issue of mobility remains a very important concern for African youth, who have not seen President Emmanuel Macron’s promises come true four years after his speech in Ouagadougou.

Another highly discussed topic, the state of democracy on the African continent and “French intervention”.

– merciful –

“We are caught between a condescending Western speech that seeks to educate Africans and a speech by our governments that affirms that Westerners want to enforce their values”, Habiba Issa Moussa of Aix-Marseille, native Nigerian A young university student expressed grief.

“The essential questions here are not entrepreneurship or sport – widely mentioned at the Montpellier summit, take note – it’s politics!” The Burkinabe Sibilla Samintou Ouédraogo, for its part, launched a critique of Africa’s “relationship of dependence” to France.

In the afternoon, President Macron was to debate with a panel of twelve young African women, selected at the end of months of dialogue across the continent by Aquil Mbembe, a Cameroonian intellectual responsible for preparing for the summit.

“I would really like to believe it,” David Menda Kithoko, a political refugee from the DRC in France, told AFP. “But I have great doubts. About the relationship between France and Africa, there are too many big words on the one hand, and a lack of courage on the other,” lamented the young activist.

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At the end of the summit, the French president, a potential candidate for re-election in seven months, may make other announcements based on proposals from Aquile M’Bombe. Among them, the creation of a fund aimed at supporting initiatives to promote democracy, programs allowing greater student mobility, or the establishment of a “Euro-African Forum on Migration”.

All in a particularly delicate context. The influence of France in its former premises is increasingly disputed, especially by Russia. And Paris is in open crisis with its two former colonies, Mali and Algeria.

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