The new military junta of Niger has demanded the departure of French troops stationed in the country. It has also accused Paris of colluding with other West African states to launch a military intervention into the country (Niger in green).
“With each coup d’état, the process is the same: discussions take place with the juntas in power, the French are asked to pack up and Paris generally complies after a deaf dialogue.”
Soon after seizing power, the military junta of GEN Tchiani in Niger made it clear that it wanted the French military out of the country. As anti-French protests proliferated in the capital, Niamey,[i] the junta quickly annulled former security cooperation agreements with France. The playbook was familiar, as the first accompanying article from Le Journal de l’Afrique articulates: “With each [West African] coup d’état, the process is the same: discussions take place with the juntas in power, the French are asked to pack up, and Paris generally complies after a deaf dialogue.” However, given a general reluctance for obeisance to the junta, France did not move its approximately 1500 troops immediately but stated that it would do so “once certain conditions are met.” Accordingly, French troops appear to have remained on bases in Niger or repositioned to Chad or Benin.
Tchiani’s junta has accused France of planning a military intervention in collusion with Niger’s neighbors as a result of this delay, combined with the repositioning of these French troops in other countries.[ii] According to the second article from the pan-African news aggregator AllAfrica.com, the Nigerien junta has claimed that France is repositioning troops in Senegal, Benin, and Côte d’Ivoire for a military intervention in Niger. Acting on this fear, as per the third article from TogoBreakingNews, the Nigerien junta broke off military relations with Benin, accusing it of harboring “military personnel, mercenaries, and material of war,” under the auspices of “an aggression sought by France, with members of ECOWAS [Economic Community of West African States], against Niger.” This follows a broader pattern of the vilification of France by francophone governments around the continent.[iii] Paris has rejected the claims of collusion. The most recent discord between Niger and France is the latest in an increasingly predictable pattern. France’s status in West Africa is arguably the worst it has been in years as francophone West African militaries conduct putsches, consolidate power, accuse France of malfeasance then demand its departure, and often, subsequently invite in Russia and the Wagner Group.
Ben Eddine, “Les troupes françaises, sans base militaire fixe? (French troops, without a permanent base?),” Le Journal de l’Afrique (pan-African news aggregator), 8 September 2023. https://lejournaldelafrique.com/les-troupes-francaises-sans-base-militaire-fixe/
It has become a habit for the French ministries of the Armed Forces and of Defence. With each coup d’état, the process is the same: discussions take place with the juntas in power, the French are asked to pack up and Paris generally complies after a deaf dialogue. After Mali, Niger. It’s been over a month since Niamey and Paris clash over military presence in Niger. The military agreements linking the two countries have been denounced by the junta in power in Niger.
Because Paris would be in the process of redeploying part of its 1 soldiers stationed there in another African country. France may have taken the time to contest Niger’s demands, so it finally gave in. While French soldiers no longer dare leave their respective bases and French aircraft have not taken off for several weeks, France affirms that it will withdraw “certain military elements” as soon as security conditions are met.
Bamba Mousa, “Niger: Situation de crise – La France dément préparer une intervention militaire (Niger: crisis situation – France denies preparing a military intervention),” AllAfrica.com (pan-African news aggregator), 11 September 2023. https://fr.allafrica.com/stories/202309110572.html
Tensions between Paris and Niamey gave rise to a new skirmish last weekend. While continuing to refuse a rapid withdrawal of its troops from Niger, France denied the accusations made on Saturday September 9 by the junta, which accuses it of “deploying its forces in several countries of the Economic Community of African States of the West as part of preparations for an aggression against Niger, which it is considering in collaboration with this community organization.”
After the coup d’état of July 26, ECOWAS brandished the threat of military intervention as a last resort in the event of failure of negotiations, in order to restore constitutional order, to release the overthrown president Mohamed Bazoum and to restore its functions. A decision supported by France, which has around 1,500 soldiers in Niger. In a statement a few days ago, Niamey accused France to position troops and military equipment in Benin, Ivory Coast and Senegal, in preparation for an attack on Niger.
Didier Assogba, “Niger: Le Bénin accusé d’abriter des mercenaires (Niger: Benin accused of harboring mercenaries),” TogoBreakingnews.info, 13 September 2023. https://togobreakingnews.info/niger-le-benin-accuse-dabriter-mercenaires/
The military in power announced the denunciation of the military agreement of July 11, 2022 with Benin.For the new Nigerien authorities, this decision is justified by the authorization granted by the Beninese government for the stationing in the country of “soldiers, mercenaries and war materials” in the perspective of “an aggression desired by France, in collaboration with certain ECOWAS countries against Niger.”
[i] For more information on the anti-French sentiments in the African security sphere, see: Jason Warner, “Anti-French Sentiment Undergirds Overthrow of Nigerien Government,” OE Watch 08-2023. https://fmso.tradoc.army.mil/2023/anti-french-sentiment-undergirds-overthrow-of-nigerien-government/; Jason Warner, “French Researchers Respond to Wave of Anti-French Sentiment in Africa,” OE Watch 07-2023. https://fmso.tradoc.army.mil/2023/french-researchers-respond-to-wave-of-anti-french-sentiment-in-africa/; Matthew Kirwin, Lassane Ouedraogo, and Jason Warner, “Fake News in the Sahel: ‘Afrancaux News,’ French Counterterrorism, and the Logics of User-Generated Media,” African Studies Review, 65 (4): December 2022, 911 – 938. https://muse.jhu.edu/article/886306
[ii] The ECOWAS bloc have considered their own military intervention into Niger because of the undemocratic transfer of power in Niger. For more on perspectives of the potential ECOWAS intervention, see: Jason Warner, “West African States Split on Potential Intervention in Niger,” OE Watch 08-2023. https://fmso.tradoc.army.mil/2023/west-african-states-split-on-potential-intervention-in-niger/
[iii] For examples of claims of French malfeasance by governments in Africa, see: Jason Warner, “CAR Joins Mali in Accusing France of Funding Terrorists,” OE Watch, 04-2023. https://fmso.tradoc.army.mil/2023/car-joins-mali-in-accusing-france-of-funding-terrorists/; Jason Warner, “Mali Claims France Funded Terrorists; France Denies,” OE Watch, 10-2022. https://community.apan.org/wg/tradoc-g2/fmso/m/oe-watch-articles-2-singular-format/428171;
Image: The new military junta of Niger has demanded the departure of French troops stationed in the country. It has also accused Paris of colluding with other West African states to launch a military intervention into the country (Niger in green).
Attribution: Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons