DOUALA, Cameroon (AA) - French President Emmanuel Macron was welcomed Monday by Cameroon’s Prime Minister Joseph Ngute and other local authorities in the capital Yaounde, where he will be staying for the next two days.
Macron will meet with his Cameroonian counterpart Paul Biya for a one-on-one discussion Tuesday and hold a press conference afterwards.
"This visit gives the two heads of state the opportunity to reaffirm the solidity of the Yaounde-Paris axis in listening and mutual respect," according to the Cameroonian presidency, which said it appreciates "at its true value the support of France to its development efforts.”
The French president will extend his first visit to the central African country until July 27 with a program of debates on food security, noting the role of the private sector; a meeting with youths on climate issues and local participatory democracy; a working session between French and Cameroonian ministers; and a meeting with the French community.
The last visit of a French head of state to Cameroon dates back to July 3, 2015 with President Francois Hollande.
Macron's arrival has elicited mixed reactions at the national and international levels since its announcement.
He is coming to defend French interests at the invitation of the Cameroonian president, according to Cameroonian lawmaker Cabral Libii.
Cameroon and France should strictly discuss mutual state interests under the rigorous prism of a win-win paradigm, according to Libii.
France and its former colony established diplomatic relations in 1960, the year of Cameroon's independence.
In terms of trade partnerships, France is Cameroon's second largest supplier after China.
Cameroon is France's 72nd trading partner and 80th supplier.
The French presence in Cameroon is marked by 200 companies in various fields owned by French nationals
Officially, the number of Cameroonian nationals holding residence permits in France is estimated at 60,000. More than 6,400 French nationals are registered in Cameroon and a little more than 700 Cameroonians are studying in France.
The two countries maintain security and defense cooperation mainly focused on training.
France also supports humanitarian projects in Cameroon. In this respect, Amnesty International researchers believe that the human rights situation has worsened.
"This is why it is crucial that the French president goes beyond strengthening economic, political and cultural relations between the two countries and expressing France's solidarity in the conflict that has pitted Cameroonian security forces against the armed group Boko Haram in the Far North region since 2013," Ilaria Allegrozzi and Fabien Offner, two of the group's researchers, said in a recent opinion piece.
According to them, the French president in his meeting with Biya should clearly express his concern about the human rights violations committed by the security forces in the two English-speaking regions of the North-West and South-West since 2016 and the repression against anyone in the country who dares to criticize the government.
Macron will continue his African tour in West Africa on Wednesday starting in Benin, which according to the French presidency wants French support in terms of air support, intelligence and equipment. The African country has recently become the target of terrorist attacks.
The French leader will visit Guinea-Bissau the next day to deal with "governance issues and the rule of law.”