Cameroon: Press Divided On Macron Visit

French President Emmanuel Macron (file photo).

French President Emmanuel Macron arrived late Monday in Cameroon at the start of a three-nation tour of western Africa. He will also visit Benin and Guinea-Bissau in an effort to renew French relations with the African continent. The papers in Yaoundé are not sure what to make of it all.

The front page of the French-language daily, Realities, sums up the confusion.

At the top of the page, there's a call from Labour Minister Grégoire Owono, directed at what the minister calls "activists and opponents" of the French presidential visit. Owono tells them they are motivated by jalousy and should stop.

Below that, there's an article in which the opposition UPC declare themselves united behind long-time President Paul Biya, and call on him to use the meeting with the French leader to underline Cameroonian sovereignty and to call for a new policy which will be to the benefit of all Africans.

Which may be expecting a bit much from a short visit.

War between France and Cameroon

Clément Boursin, the African director of Cristian Action for the Abolition of Torture, is on the front page of Le Jour. He says "Macron should talk about the war being waged between Cameroon and France".

In fact, the headline is confusing because the tense is wrong. What Clément Boursin seems to be talking about (and I base this on a collective article in today's Paris-based Le Monde) is the "colonial and neocolonial war which France has waged, censored and denied for the past 60 years".

Will Emmanuel Macron be the first president to officially recognise that conflict," the writers wonder, "and end one of the great post-war French taboos?"

The Guardian Post carries a main headline message from Cameroon's main opposition party, the Social Democratic Front.

"As Macron comes visiting," we read, "SDF urges France to apologise, compensate for pre-independance era atrocities".

A warning

And the bottom of the same Guardian Post front page has a worrying message from the spririt realm, with a story in which a "Prominent Prophet" warns that the visit of the French leader spells doom for certain "barons of the ruling Cameroon People's Democratic Movement".

The weekly paper Signatures, which promises to "Observe clearly, relate coldly", says Emmanuel Macron is an unwilling visitor to Cameroon.

The president comes to Yaoundé in "a position of weakness", the weekly paper claims, "in an effort to save what can be saved of French interests in Cameroon, interests which are being relentlessly whittled away.

"He's here because he's afraid," Signatures coldly and clearly asserts.

More down-to-earth, the business daily Economy, says the two leaders will need to discuss the war in Ukraine and the impact that conflict continues to have on grain supplies to Africa.

Blaming the French

The weekly Diapason warns that "Macron is plunging into troubled waters" with this visit.

"There is a general anti-French feeling," the paper says, and that is based on the fact that Cameroon is "drowning in a series of security, health and economic crises." Blame the French.

The front page of a special edition of Cameroon Today carries a grim warning for the French leader: "Our ghosts say you are not welcome, Mr President".

The ghosts are the heroes of the fight for independence, people like Félix Moumié and Amadou Ahidjo, victims, according to the weekly paper, of French brutality in the "dark hours" of recent Cameroonian history.

Africa, says Cameroon Today, is running out of patience with France, a country which is clearly losing its aura of influence on the world stage. A presidential mea culpa won't put everything right, but it would be a step in the right direction.

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