When French President Emmanuel Macron's delegation arrived in Burkina Faso this week, the president who has become known for making condescending remarks about Africa was given a not-so-warm welcome as protesters shouted “down with imperialism” and put up barricades and burning tires.
A group of protesters led by students chanted “French troops-out of Burkina Faso, out of Africa,” outside the university where Macron was giving his speech. The protesters were met by riot police and tear gas.
Earlier, the French delegation's convoy of vehicles was greeted by protesters throwing stones, damaging vehicles.
Tensions were already rising in anticipation of Macron's visit. In the hours prior to his arrival, French troops in Burkina Faso were attacked with a hand grenade. The grenade missed its target however and wounded three civilians.
If protests, stones, and grenades were an indication that Macron was less than welcomed by many in Burkina Faso, which was formerly colonized by the French, the speech itself didn't go much better, with many on social media calling his behavior “paternalistic,” and “disrespectful.”
Burkina Faso's President Roch Marc Christian Kabore walked out of the speech after Macron remarked “Sometimes you talk to me like I’m still a colonial power. But I do not want to deal with electricity in universities in Burkina Faso, It is the work of the president [of Burkina Faso].”
As Kabore walked out, Macron joked that “he went to repair the air conditioning.”
During a question and answer session in the university, a student asked Macron about the high presence of French troops in her country. Macron rebuked the question, saying:
“Imagine a young woman in France. She may have never heard of Burkina (Faso), but her younger brother may have died in recent months to save you.... you do not have your younger brother fighting on Belgian or French soil.
“Do not come and talk to me like that about French soldiers. The only thing you owe them is applause.”
Macron also raised his tone in response to remarks about slave trading in Libya, a country that France as part of NATO invaded and destabilized in 2011.
“You are unbelievable! Who are the traffickers. They are Africans my friends. Its not the French, they are Africans,” he said.
The President of the former colonial power is no stranger to making remarks that many in Africa have seen as reminiscent of colonial paternalism. In June, Macron said that Africa's problems were “civilizational,” and that African women were having too many children.
Burkina Faso was formerly known as the “Republic of Upper Volta” until revolutionary leader Thomas Sankara scrapped the colonial name. After engaging in massive campaigns toward land reform, self-sufficiency, and anti-imperialism, the leader was overthrown and killed in a coup in 1987.