Macron seeks to rethink Africa relations, faces tensions
OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron landed late Monday in West Africa, where he is expected to try to revive French influence and move beyond post-colonial tensions despite threats of demonstrations.
In his first big speech on Africa, the 39-year-old leader is expected to focus on more pragmatic relations, such as supporting startup entrepreneurs instead of giving aid.
The Burkina government has ordered schools closed to ease traffic because of the heavy security measures in place during Macron’s visit, though many view the closures as an effort to reduce the threat of student unrest.
Unions in Burkina Faso already have called for protests against Macron’s visit to Ouagadougou ahead of a Europe-Africa summit in Ivory Coast later in the week. Macron also will make a stop in Ghana after attending the summit in Ivory Coast.
Burkina Faso, a former French colony, is now part of a five-country regional security force aimed at eliminating jihadists in the Sahel. Long a country of relative peace, Burkina Faso has seen the threat of Islamic extremists spill over the border from neighboring Mali in recent years.
An attack on a Turkish restaurant in August left 18 people dead, while an ambush on another nearby restaurant in January 2016 killed 30 people.
The northern border region near Mali is now the home of a local preacher, Ibrahim Malam Dicko, who has claimed responsibility for recent deadly attacks against troops and civilians. His association, Ansarul Islam, is now considered a terrorist group by Burkina Faso’s government.
On Sunday, a teacher of French and geography was killed in Burkina Faso’s Yatenga province near the Malian border. Authorities have called it a “terrorist attack,” and said two others were wounded.
Associated Press writer Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.