Por having visited their country a few months after his accession to the Élysée in 2017, Emmanuel Macron left a memory still intact in the minds of many Burkinabè. The second round of the presidential election, which gave the winner to the candidate of La République en Marche, ahead of the candidate of the National Rally, Marine Le Pen, further revived this memory. On social networks, some have resurrected souvenir photos of his time at Joseph-Ki-Zerbo University in Ouagadougou. As a reminder, Emmanuel Macron gave his first speech on African politics there. Beyond this memory, the stakes of the French presidential election for Burkina Faso are important as Emmanuel Macron’s first five-year term will have been marked by great challenges in the Sahel region. No surprise therefore to see how much his re-election was commented on in the streets of Ouagadougou.
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The memory of the Ouagadougou speech still vivid
Babou Ziba was there that day in November 2017, among hundreds of other students. Opposite them, Emmanuel Macron, a very young president, who chose to come to Burkina just a few months after his accession to the Élysée. In the presence of his Burkinabè counterpart at the time, Roch Kaboré, he held a “memorable” speech in front of the young people, before engaging with them in a direct, “unfiltered” exchange, as there has rarely been there, between a head of state and students. No taboo subject. Emmanuel Macron evokes the colonial past, the cultural assets of which Africa has been dispossessed. It lifts the veil on the military partnership. In short, it opens the way to a promise of a new “uninhibited” relationship between the black continent and its country. That was in 2017, at the end of November precisely.
Five years later, Emmanuel Macron has again gained the confidence of the French who, thanks to the second round of the presidential election, preferred him to Marine Le Pen, at 58.5%. And it is not a surprise for Babou Ziba who followed the pre-vote polls, which had given the outgoing president a favorite. “In Ouagadougou, Emmanuel Macron made big promises during his visit in 2017. He promised a new partnership with Africa. He showed concern for the future of African youth. But his words were unfortunately not followed by action. I mean that I do not see any concrete and significant change five years later, ”comments Babou Ziba, recognizing all the same positive signals, such as the restitution of cultural property, the process of which has begun.
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Macron perceived as “a winner by default”
Emmanuel Macron, on the one hand, and Marine Le Pen, on the other: the choice is quickly made for many Burkinabè. Clearly, the candidate of En Marche! is “the lesser evil”, even “a winner by default”. For Christophe Porgo, the candidate of the National Rally is “the one that the French should above all not bring to the head of their country”. This student points to the “contemptuous discourse” towards African immigrants in France. “Marine Le Pen could not and should not be elected with the program she presented. Its policy, which plans to exclude manu militari Africans from France, ignores the contribution of these Africans to his country,” he comments. And to continue that Jean-Luc Mélenchon – another candidate who also gave a speech at Joseph-Ki-Zerbo University – would have won the election if the second round had opposed him to Emmanuel Macron. Why ? “What we learn from many French people through the media is that they did not vote for Emmanuel Macron out of conviction. They elected him because he is the lesser evil against Marine Le Pen. This means that if Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who came third in the first round, had had the chance to face Macron, he would have been elected because he represents hope for the French people, “the young student believes.
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The analysis of the continuation of Macron’s African policy
“Continuity is the summary in a nutshell of what will be the French policy towards Africa for the next five years,” analyzes political scientist Siaka Coulibaly. “From the moment the same president was re-elected, it is clear that his policy towards Burkina and the rest of Africa will continue in the same format. I don’t think there will be a significant change in the level of cooperation. We will see the maintenance of the same principles and the same programs,” he explains.
In a context of security instability in the countries of the Sahel, continuity raises questions about the future of military cooperation between Paris and its Sahelian partners, including Burkina. Because Emmanuel Macron’s first term ended in a false note against the backdrop of a diplomatic quarrel between France and Mali, which led to a reorganization of Barkhane, the French counter-terrorism force in the Sahel which should be redeployed to Niger. after packing up in Mali. This makes a part of the Burkinabè public think that Barkhane could settle in Burkina Faso under this second term of President Emmanuel Macron, especially since the country is still hard hit by terrorist attacks despite the coming to power of new authorities.
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“If Niger grants Barkhane the right to settle on its territory, this force no longer needs to redeploy to Burkina for the simple reason that, unlike Mali and Niger, Burkina does not have a territory very large. The country can be narrow for the Barkhane force composed of at least five thousand soldiers and needs maneuvering spaces for its enormous equipment. From this point of view, Niger is more conducive to the continuation of Operation Barkhane,” thinks the political analyst.
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What is really expected of Macron
From the re-elected president, the expectations of the Burkinabè are multiple. They crystallize on the military aspect of cooperation. In a statement, Eddie Komboigo, president of the Congress for Democracy and Progress – the historic party of former president Blaise Compaoré – wrote: “It’s time […] to revisit with courage and with full responsibility the heavy military, diplomatic and economic agreements between France and the former African colonies, in particular my country, Burkina Faso. You had already started by restoring the African cultural heritage formerly kept in French museums. We encourage you to continue these efforts and to encourage all European countries to do the same. In any case, the young African populations have become aware of this and have no other option but to go in the direction of rebalancing relations in a win-win spirit. Full success in your great and exalting mission as President of the Republic! »
On the other hand, there are other Burkinabè who “expect nothing more” from France, “it doesn’t matter which president is at its head”. Willingly, Boris Guissou raises his finger to be counted among this category of people, on behalf of the Coalition of African Patriots in Burkina Faso (COPA-BF) – an organization which was at the initiative of blocking a French military convoy in Burkina in November 2021. “For us, members of COPA-BF, we expect nothing from Emmanuel Macron or any other French president. Today, the situation has changed and Africans are at a level where they are no longer waiting for a messiah”, believes this civil society leader for whom a second term of Emmanuel Macron will be accompanied by “continuity in the military cooperation, an attempt to consolidate agreements with perhaps other approach techniques”.
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