On Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron reiterated that Paris has no intention of returning to past policies of interfering in Africa.
He arrived in Gabon’s capital Libreville on Wednesday at the beginning of a four-nation African tour aimed at boosting relations with the continent.
“I prefer to be very clear and explicit in meeting you today,” he said in remarks to the French community, “In Gabon, as elsewhere, France is a neutral interlocutor, which speaks to everyone, and whose role is not to interfere in domestic political issues.”
Macron’s visit to four central African nations comes at a time when France finds itself facing a wave of hostility among its former colonies in the Sahel, pushing it to withdraw its troops.
Ahead of his visit, he noted that there would be a “noticeable reduction” in the French troop presence in Africa “in the coming months” and a greater focus on training and equipping allied countries’ forces.
“I’ve decided on a new strategy for all our military bases in Africa. And I have asked the defence minister and the chief of the defence staff to work with their counterparts to adapt our military arrangements,” he said.
According to Macron, the reorganisation was “neither a withdrawal nor disengagement, but adapting an arrangement” with allies.
Ahead of leaving Gabon, the head of state attended a conference on preserving tropical forests, an initiative that he and Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba unveiled at last year’s UN climate conference.
Later on Thursday, he headed to Angola, before travelling on Friday to the Republic of Congo and neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.