Macron Arrives in Rwanda to Turn ‘New Page’ in Relations
“A common history is now emerging,” Mr. Duclert said. “There must be equality. Europe can no longer explain to Africa what it needs to know. It’s up to Africa to explain to Europe what it’s doing.”
But the reconciliation is also the result of more prosaic calculations by Mr. Macron and Mr. Kagame, two leaders facing different kinds of pressures in Africa, where people are clamoring for more accountability, even as new and resurgent powers, like China, Russia and Turkey, are increasingly outmuscling old powers like France.
For Mr. Macron, a political disrupter at home who has sought to reset France’s relations with Africa, the reconciliation amounts to his most successful attempt at finding friends and business partners in new corners of the continent.
But even though he said he did not want France “to remain prisoner of our past” in an interview with the magazine Jeune Afrique last November, he has often found that is exactly the case — embroiled, for example, in an increasingly unpopular, seven-year war against Islamism in West Africa that has forced him to look away from coups in allies, like Mali, and to work with longtime autocrats.
Last month, one of France’s most important allies in the war, Idriss Déby, who had ruled ruthlessly over Chad since 1990, was killed and replaced by his son Mahamat. In a tableau that recalled the bad old days of what was known as “Françafrique,” Mr. Macron was the only Western leader to attend the funeral and sat in the front row, next to the son, while other African leaders sat behind them.
“It’s a sepia image — Macron always tries to wipe away the past with a magic slate, but France’s history in Africa always catches up with him,” said Antoine Glaser, an expert on France’s relations with Africa and co-author of “The African Trap of Macron.”
Abdi Latif Dahir reported from Nairobi, and Norimitsu Onishi from Paris.