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French FM warns Africa not to ‘trade off France for Russia’

Catherine Colonna had been asked whether Paris “is losing its grip” on the continent

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna paid a visit to Nigeria on Friday, urging African nations not to develop relations with Moscow instead of Paris.

During her visit to the capital, Abuja, which she called “an opportunity to highlight the strong growth of cooperation,” the minister announced “the imminent return of $150 million of the funds embezzled by Sani Abacha” which were seized by the courts and have been frozen in France since 2021.

Nigeria’s former military ruler, General Sani Abacha, who died in 1998, is suspected of looting from $3 billion to $5 billion in public funds, according to Transparency International. The money stolen from the country was withdrawn abroad and ended up in financial institutions in several European countries and the US. Nigeria is still working to recover the money.

When a journalist asked Colonna whether Paris “is losing its grip” on the African continent, referring to a break in relations with Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger, the minister replied: “I wouldn’t trade off France for Russia, if I were you.”

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These three African countries are former French colonies whose pro-Paris governments have been overthrown by the military. The most recent coup took place this summer in Niger.

Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger are part of the Sahel region, which also includes Chad and Mauritania. Colonna told the press that “the Sahel does not represent all of Africa,” noting that “there are many different and more positive situations beyond the Sahel.”

Meanwhile, many African countries maintain warm relations with Russia. The Russia-Africa Summit, which was held in St. Petersburg in July, was attended by representatives of all 54 African countries, including 45 heads of state or government.

During a meeting at the summit with Mali’s interim president, Assimi Goita, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Moscow would allocate $2 million to purchase food for the African country through UN channels.

Russia seeks to develop trade and investment cooperation with Mali, Putin said, noting that Moscow has “a growing trade turnover with many African countries.”

Putin added that Russia and African countries stand together for the construction of “a fairer architecture of the world order in opposition to the neo-colonial policies of the West.”

 

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