Paris, France (CNN) — French President Emmanuel Macron pledged Monday to “transform” the French military presence in Africa, which will begin in the coming months, with a “noticeable reduction” in French forces on the continent.
Macron made the pledge while giving a speech in Paris on France’s future military and economic policy towards Africa, ahead of a trip to the continent.
“Our model should not be a military base, as it exists today,” he said, promising that the French presence would instead depend on military training centers and academies, which are run jointly with local forces.
This comes after France’s military withdrawal from several countries in West Africa, including Mali and Burkina Faso, following a military takeover there.
The French president promised to go beyond previous commitments to repatriate some African historical artifacts, noting that in the coming weeks the French government will put in place a “legal framework and methodology to address new returns of cultural artifacts” to Africa.
“France does not have a predetermined space in Africa. It has duties, interests and friendships,” he added, adding that he “does not feel nostalgic for French Africa.”
“Africa is not a field for competition,” Macron said, referring to the countries whose “armies and mercenaries” arrive in Africa.
Macron also spoke of the Kremlin-backed Wagner mercenary group, which has a growing presence in Africa and competes directly with France’s military influence, especially in West Africa.
Macron described the private military company as a “criminal group to secure the lives of failed regimes or putschists” in Africa.
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