An image appearing to show Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi pointing at his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron is circulating in social media posts that falsely claim it shows the leaders arguing after Macron purportedly said "Africa should be handed over to France". But at no point in the press conference did Macron make such a comment. The image in fact shows the pair responding to a journalist who raised the subject of Tshisekedi's controversial 2019 presidential win.
The claim was shared in a Chinese-language article published on Sohu.com here on March 6, 2023.
It says French President Emmanuel Macron, during a joint press conference with his Democratic Republic of Congo counterpart Felix Tshisekedi, called the Congolese leader "inept, a failure" and said he thinks that "Africa should be handed over to France to manage".
The article claims Macron made the remarks after Tshisekedi "accused France of involvement in the country's genocide in the 90s, directly pointing his finger at Macron and demanding security assistance".
Before he supposedly labelled the Congolese president a failure, the article claims Macron said this was "Congo’s own failure and cannot be blamed on France".
The article appears to be referring to the 1994 Rwanda genocide that saw an estimated 800,000 Rwandan Tutsis and moderate Hutus murdered in 100 days of slaughter triggered by the assassination of the country's president, Juvenal Habyarimana.
Macron has recognised his country's role in the genocide, from backing a genocidal regime to ignoring warnings of the impending massacres.
France had been accused of using its diplomatic clout to stall effective action to stop the killings.
When it did finally send in troops, it was accused of only doing so to counter the advance of Tutsi rebels and allow the perpetrators to escape to neighbouring Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo.
France, however, maintains its deployment stopped the killings and saved thousands of lives.
Screenshot of the false post taken on March 23, 2023
The claim was shared in similar posts, including on Twitter, WeChat, and the Chinese version of TikTok Douyin, as Macron visited the DRC on the last leg of his African tour aimed at renewing frayed ties.
The continent is becoming a renewed diplomatic battleground as Russian and Chinese influence there grows. There is also widespread anti-French sentiment in some former colonies.
DRC electionsA reverse image search and keyword searches found the picture shared in the false posts was taken from a press conference that Macron and Tshisekedi gave on March 4 in the DRC's capital Kinshasa.
The image corresponds to the 48:21 mark of the video, when the two leaders engaged in a tense exchange after a journalist raised the subject of Tshisekedi's controversial 2019 presidential win and concerns about election integrity in the DRC's upcoming vote in December.
The journalist mentioned remarks by former French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian -- who challenged the official outcome of the 2019 election -- that Tshisekedi's victory was an "African-style compromise".
Tshisekedi asks why France was quick to criticise an "African-style compromise" but did not speak of an "American-style compromise" or "French-style compromise" over allegations of election irregularities in the United States and France.
In an apparent attempt to diffuse the tension, Macron responds that the journalist's question "is not France's position".
Tshisekedi interrupts: "I was referring to what Le Drian said. He is a French official! The 'African-style compromise' is Le Drian's words, not the journalist's."
Shortly after the exchange, the presidents shake hands.
Below is a screenshot of the image shared in the false posts (left) and the exchange in the press conference (right):
Screenshot of the image shared in the false posts (left) and the exchange in the press conference (right)
A clip of the exchange was also included in an AFP video about the press conference.
At no point in the press conference did Macron say that Africa should be handed over to France.
M23 rebelsAn analysis of the joint press conference also shows that Tshisekedi does not accuse France of involvement in the "genocide in the 90s" before demanding "security assistance".
At the 24:34 mark of the press conference video, a Congolese journalist contends that France is responsible for allowing armed Hutu groups to enter the DRC after the 1994 genocide in Rwanda -- and this has contributed to unrest and millions of Congolese deaths.
He asks Macron how France intends to resolve this security issue and how he intends to repair the damage caused to the Congolese population.
The journalist also asks Macron whether France can be considered a friendly country to the DRC as it has not done enough to condemn Rwanda, which is accused of backing the M23 rebel group that occupies swathes of territory in the eastern DRC.
Macron responds that France is an ally of the DRC and condemns threats to the country's sovereignty. But he rejected the assertion that France was responsible for the situation in the eastern DRC, where he said several rebel groups have prospered.
"Since 1994, and it is not France's fault, I'm sorry to say it in such blunt terms, you have not been able to restore the sovereignty, neither military, nor security, nor administrative, of your country," he said.
"This is also a reality. We must not look to cast blame on those outside this affair."
Macron says France has condemned the M23 rebel group and all those who support it.