OUAGADOUGOU, BURKINA FASO (NOVEMBER 28, 2017) (AGENCY POOL) – French President Emmanuel Macron has a reputation for disarming hostile audiences with repartee and humour, but his latest verbal jousting on a trip to Africa has drawn criticism at home.
In an interview broadcast late on Wednesday (November 29), Macron dismissed as “ridiculous” suggestions he had offended Burkina Faso’s President Roch Marc Kabore when he quipped with students that Kabore had left the room to fix the air-conditioning.
Firing back at his critics, Macron said it was those who deemed it inappropriate to joke with an African leader who were guilty of patronising the continent.
The exchange came during a boisterous 90-minute question-and-answer session at Ouagadougou University earlier this week that followed Macron’s promise of a new era in relations between France and Africa.
When one of the students in the audience grilled Macron over what he would do about Burkina Faso’s constant power cuts, the 39-year-old replied: “You’re still talking to me as if I am a colonial power but I don’t want to look after the electricity in the universities of Burkina Faso! That’s the president’s job.”
Earlier heckles turned into laughter and applause.
When Kabore later left the hall, Macron joked: “You see, he’s gone. He’s left to fix the air-conditioning.” Shortly after, a smiling Kabore returned to his seat.
Macron’s remark touched off a social media frenzy, splitting those who defended it as lighthearted banter and others who complained of paternalistic overtones.
Far-right rivals accused him of “bordering on racism”.