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French president says era of interference in African domestic affairs is over

French President Emmanuel Macron in Gabon   -  
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LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP or licensors


French President Emmanuel Macron reiterated on Thursday that Paris has no intention of returning to past policies of interfering in Africa.

He arrived in Libreville on Wednesday at the start of a four-nation African tour aimed at resetting 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 visit to four central African countries comes at a time when France finds itself facing a wave of hostility among its former colonies in the Sahel, forcing it to withdraw its troops.

Ahead of his visit, he said 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.

Macron insisted that the reorganisation was "neither a withdrawal nor disengagement, but adapting an arrangement" with allies.

Before leaving Gabon, he will attend 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 Thursday, he will head to Angola, before travelling on Friday to the Republic of Congo and neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.

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