The French president vilified Russia as a “colonial imperial power” during a visit to Benin, which France ruled for more than 150 years.
By deciding “to invade a neighboring country to defend its interests there … Russia is one of the last imperial colonial powers,” said Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday.
He made the remarks during a press conference with his Beninese counterpart Patrice Talon in Cotonou, adding “I speak on a continent [Africa] which has undergone colonial imperialism.”
France colonised the small west African country of Benin in 1894, which was at the time one of the oldest and most developed states in the region. Benin gained full independence from France in 1960.
In the Beninese capital, Macron warned African capitals against the “new type of hybrid world war” currently being waged by Moscow, which weaponises “information, energy and food.”
Since the start of the Ukraine war, Russia has withheld crucial supplies of Ukrainian grain and energy, which is fuelling food security fears and inflation around the world.
Speaking at a separate conference in Uganda, Russia’s top diplomat Sergei Lavrov claimed Moscow was not causing the “energy and food crises”, denouncing “a very noisy campaign” around these issues.
Yesterday Macron bluntly denounced what he called the “hypocrisy” — “especially on the African continent” — of certain governments not criticising the Russian invasion of Ukraine — something the French leader attributed to “diplomatic pressures”.
Several African countries, such as Cameroon, have not condemned Russia’s behaviour, alongside many others in the Middle East and Asia.
Talon welcomed Macron’s speech, saying that his country’s relationship with France was “uninhibited and rid of the heaviness of the past.”
According to AFP, relations between France and Benin have improved significantly, following the return to Benin of 26 national treasures that were looted in 1892 by French colonial troops.
This gesture “changed the image of France by showing that it was possible to establish a relationship of equals and to dispel the feeling of Beninese that the French still had a superiority complex,” said José Pliya, one of Talon’s advisers.
After visiting the exhibition of these ancient artefacts in Cotonou, Macron vowed this process of repatriation would continue. Other symbolic Beninese works, such as the sculpture of God Gou, are still currently held by the Louvre Museum.
Benin’s government has repeatedly said it would like these returned.
Macron also pledged that France would “always support” Benin’s security, particularly by providing intelligence and equipment, as the west African nation wrestles with jihadist attacks in the north.