The French president called Russia a “colonial imperial power” during a visit to Benin, which France has ruled for over 150 years.
Deciding to “invade a neighboring country to protect its interests there… Russia is one of the last imperial colonial powers,” Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday.
He made the announcement during a press conference with his Beninese counterpart Patrice Talon in Cotonou, adding: “I speak on the continent [Africa] which has been subjected to colonial imperialism.”
France colonized the small West African country of Benin in 1894, which at the time was one of the oldest and most developed states in the region. Benin gained full independence from France in 1960.
In Benin’s capital, Macron warned African capitals against the “new type of hybrid world war” currently being waged by Moscow, which is armed with “information, energy and food.”
Since the start of the war in Ukraine, Russia has been suspending critical shipments of Ukrainian grain and energy supplies, fueling fears of food security and inflation around the world.
Speaking at a separate conference in Uganda, a senior Russian diplomat, Sergei Lavrov, said Moscow was not the cause of the “energy and food crises,” condemning the “very noisy campaign” around the issues.
Macron yesterday bluntly condemned what he called the “hypocrisy” – “especially on the African continent” – of some governments not criticizing the Russian invasion of Ukraine – something that the French leader attributed to “diplomatic pressure.”
A number of African countries, such as Cameroon, did not condemn Russia’s behavior, as did many other countries in the Middle East and Asia.
Talon hailed Macron’s performance, saying his country’s relationship with France was “liberated and free from the weight of the past.”
According to AFP, relations between France and Benin improved significantly after the return to Benin of 26 national treasures looted in 1892 by French colonial troops.
The gesture “changed the image of France by showing that it was possible to establish relations on an equal footing and dispel the feeling of the Beninese that the French still have a superiority complex,” said José Plia, one of Talon’s advisers.
After visiting an exhibition of these ancient artifacts in Cotonou, Macron promised that this repatriation process would continue. Other symbolic works from Benin, such as the sculpture of the god Gou, are still kept in the Louvre.
The Benin government has repeatedly stated that it would like to return them.
Macron also pledged that France would “always support” Benin’s security, in particular by providing intelligence and equipment, as the West African nation fights jihadist attacks in the north.