The French ambassador to the West African Republic of Niger flew out of the capital Niamey on Wednesday, the first sign that Paris may be getting ready to acknowledge that its century-old colonial presence is changing in ways perhaps never anticipated. France’s 1,500 troops are expected to leave in the coming months.
Macron announced, “We are putting an end to our military cooperation with the de facto authorities of Niger because they don’t want to fight terrorism anymore. We are not there to deal with internal politics and be hostages of putschists.”
He preferred not to deal with the ugly realities of France’s colonial hold over Niger (including Burkina Faso and Mali) that has seen Paris control these countries by bribing top-level political leaders, who in turn, gave France various favours.
The departure of the French has been widely welcomed in the streets of Niamey. The bitter irony is will the army officers now in charge behave any differently from the man they overthrew in a coup in July, President Bazoum? Gen Abourahmane Tchiani commanded the presidential guard that protected Bazoum and is now in charge. All he has said about the future is elections in three years, which may never happen
There have been public demonstrations in favour of Russia and its state-run Wager Group, an armed mercenary unit that is active in NIger and other parts of Africa. They seem spontaneous but Russia as a saviour in place of France seems unlikely.
Not to leave out the Americans who have a drone base near Agadez, in south-central Niger. They seem determined to hang on there for the foothold it gives them in monitoring armed Islamic groups in the Sahel region, which includes Niger. They could strike a deal with Tchiani and after the departure of France, the military junta needed new friends, powerful friends. The Americans could be just what the doctor ordered.