Shortly after his election as French president, Emmanuel Macron pleased international observers and African heads of state with his declaration to end the policy of “Françafrique”, a decades-long approach to maintain France’s sphere of influence over its former colonies in Africa, usually through covert affairs and military involvement. Yet Macron’s support for Khalifa Haftar, the commander of the Libyan National Army, and President Idriss Déby of Chad has raised the question of whether France is truly doing away with its paternalistic foreign policy towards Africa or if it is simply recalibrating.
Haftar has used his military advances to close off Libya’s oil export ports to starve the UN-backed government in Tripoli of desperately needed funds. France, however, views Haftar as a potential partner in counterterrorism efforts. In neighboring Chad, French aircraft targeted rebel outposts, allegedly under the auspices of attacking terrorist strongholds, causing some to suspect that France is more concerned with keeping Deby in power to maintain access to Chad’s vast mineral resources.
Paul Melly, a consulting fellow at the policy institute and think tank Chatham House, told Al Jazeera that these accusations are perhaps too harsh, and that France and Macron are rather seeking a redefined relationship with Africa that’s more of a partnership, especially in addressing terrorism. He added that France has had long-standing economic and security interests across the Sahel and Central Africa in countries that are known for weak governance.