Macron, in Cameroon, says food is Russian weapon of war

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YAOUNDE, July 26 (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron described the global food crisis as one of Russia's "weapons of war" during a visit to Cameroon on Tuesday, dismissing suggestions Western sanctions were to blame.

Cameroon, like many developing countries, is grappling with sharp increases in prices for oil, fertiliser and foodstuffs. Severe fuel shortages hit the capital Yaounde last week leading to long queues at petrol stations.

Macron is on a three-leg tour of Africa, a trip meant to strengthen political ties with the continent and help boost agricultural production amid the growing food insecurity linked to the war in Ukraine.

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African governments have largely avoided taking sides and refused to join Western condemnation and sanctions.

At the same time, anti-French sentiment is rising in France's former West African colonies, where security concerns following a string of coups are stoking frustration and swinging public opinion in favour of Russia.

"We are blamed by some who say that European sanctions (on Russia) is the cause of the world food crisis, including in Africa. It is totally false," Macron said during a meeting with the French community in Cameroon.

"Food, like energy have become Russian weapons of war ... We must help the African continent to produce more for itself," Macron said.

Many African nations are dependent on Russian grain and energy, but they also buy Ukrainian grain that has been disrupted by the conflict.

Moscow denies responsibility for the food crisis, blaming Western sanctions for slowing its food and fertiliser exports and Ukraine for mining the approaches to its ports.

Cameroon, a mineral-rich central African nation, is a major food producer for the region and Macron's delegation will seek investment opportunities in the agricultural sector through a Food and Agriculture Resilience Mission initiative launched in March with the African Union to boost food production.

Macron's met 89-year-old President Paul Biya who has ruled Cameroon for nearly 40 years. The meeting comes after a period of strained relations following Macron's comments in 2020 that he will put "maximum pressure on Paul Biya" to put an end to human rights violations in the country.

The government denied the allegations at the time.

Asked during their news conference if he planned to seek another term in 2025, Biya said his decision to "seek another or return to his village" would be known at the end of this term.

The trip - Macron's first in Africa since his re-election in April - coincides with visits by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Mike Hammer to different countries across the continent. read more

Macron heads to Benin on Wednesday and Guinea-Bissau on Thursday.

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Reporting by Sofia Christensen; Additional reporting by Sophie Louet in Paris; Editing by Bate Felix and Alison Williams

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