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France’s president Macron apologises to former African colonies? No, fake translation added to video

IN SHORT: In the circulating video, Emmanuel Macron appears to apologise to five former French colonies in Africa. But the English voiceover gives a false translation of his speech to the UN in 2022.

In a video circulating on social media in May 2023, France’s president Emmanuel Macron appears to apologise to some of his country’s former colonies in Africa.

Macron is barely audible as he speaks in French, but a voiceover seemingly translates his words into English.

“I stand before you today, April 30th 2023, as the president of the French republic, to express my deepest apologies to the African nations and peoples who were affected by France’s colonial past,” the voiceover begins.

“We recognise the harm and damage caused by our actions, and we are committed to making amends for the wrongs committed during that period.”

In the translations, Macron’s apology is specifically directed at Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon and the Central African Republic.

The phrase “we acknowledge the exploitation of your resources and culture, and the deep scars” left by colonialism is repeated in the text. Macron also appears to commit to “reconciliation and a working towards a new relationship” with the countries “based on absolute respect”.

Colonialism is the practice of one country taking control of another for political and economical reasons.

Almost 20 African countries are former French colonies, mainly in west and north Africa. They also include Djibouti and the islands of Madagascar and the Comoros in the east.

The video has been posted on Facebook, YouTube and TikTok here, here, here and here.

But did Macron apologise to France’s former African colonies on 30 April 2023?


Speech to UN general assembly on war in Ukraine

At the start of the video, the symbol of the United Nations (UN) can be seen on the podium where Macron is standing. Africa Check googled “Emmanuel Macron speech to United Nations”.

Among the top results is a YouTube video of a speech Macron gave to the UN general assembly in September 2022. The three people behind Macron are the same, and so is the way he talks and gestures. This shows that it’s the same video.

The video was uploaded to the UN’s YouTube channel on 20 September 2022. Macron is speaking in French and there is a different voiceover translating his speech.

The French president does not mention Africa or apologise to former colonies. Instead, he discusses the Russia-Ukraine war. Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, with the war still on at the time of publication.

The voiceover in the video on social media is false.

The original video has also been posted on the French presidency’s website with English subtitles of Macron’s speech. Again, the subject is Ukraine, not an apology to Africa.

There is no evidence that Macron has apologised to France’s former African colonies. 

In fact, in January 2023 he said he would not “ask forgiveness” from Algeria for colonialism. But in 2021, he apologised to Algerians who fought for France during Algeria’s bitter war for independence from 1954 to 1962.

A fact-checking report by news agency Reuters also found the translation of Macron’s speech to be “altered”.

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