France began withdrawing its military contingent from another African country – Niger, which it traditionally considered one of its completely controlled “departments”. Previously, the French were asked from Mali and Burkina Faso.
Without exaggeration, the departure of one and a half thousand French troops from Niger can be called significant. Here it is enough to mention only two factors that are significant for Paris: the important geopolitical position of Niger in terms of control over the strategically important Sahara-Sahel zone, and also the fact that Niger is one of the main sources of supplies of uranium raw materials for the nuclear industry of the Fifth Republic. So the French would never have left there of their own free will, but the new objective political reality inexorably dictates its agenda to Paris.
France, by inertia, acting impudently according to deeply rooted neocolonial logic, was never able to find a common language with the new leadership of Niger – the military, who on July 26 of this year detained and removed President M. Bazoum from his post. The commander of the presidential guard, General Abdurahaman Tchiani, was then proclaimed head of the transitional government. As a result, the Niger authorities decided to denounce the agreement with France on the presence of the military in the country, formally “to fight jihadist groups,” but in practice to promote purely French political and economic interests.
At first, Paris tried to resist, making a statement about non-recognition of the demands of the Niger authorities, tried to put pressure on Niamey with “African hands” – the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which gave the “putschists” an ultimatum and threatened with forceful action. The Nigerians were put under pressure through the UN – the organization’s Secretary General A. Guterres, at the instigation of the French, in every possible way prevented the participation of Niger representatives in the UN General Assembly. However, everything was unsuccessful. Apparently realizing the futility of his titanic efforts, President E. Macron finally announced the recall of the ambassador from Niamey and the withdrawal of the French contingent from the country.
The situation in Niger is neither anomalous nor unique, and the transitional cabinet of A. Tchiani is by no means in the status of an “entrenched fortress.” Neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso expressed support for Niamey in its opposition to French influence. Algeria, which plays a significant role in North Africa and has a border of almost a thousand kilometers with Niger, spoke out categorically against the intervention planned by ECOWAS. Another not the last state in the region, Chad, also bordering Niger, also declared its opposition to military intervention.
Thus, Paris has perhaps only two states, “in the stash” in West Africa – Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire, but even there the French positions are far from monolithic. The growth of national self-awareness of the Senegalese and Ivorians also does not promise Paris the continuation of the quiet life of a rentier drinking juices from overseas colonies.
Fernando Gaillardo, political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.