France might withdraw some of their troops from the African country of Niger following a military coup as calls increase to cut ties with the European nation that has imposed a hefty colonial and political presence over the nation.
The former French ambassador to Mali and Senegal told Al Jazeera that those talks are underway, according to his sources.
Niger soldiers executed a coup against President Mohamed Bazoum and the nation’s leaders on July 26 due to a reported dissatisfaction with economic, social, and security governance in the country.
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Coup ringleaders are demanding the immediate removal of all French troops from the country as well as the French ambassador after abandoning multiple military cooperation agreements and revoking the ambassador’s diplomatic immunity. The ambassador has refused to leave, and Bazoum, a French ally, is still in custody.
In response, France has refused to recognize the Niger government’s takeover but has reportedly “immobilized” French forces “since anti-terrorist cooperation was suspended.”
About 1,500 troops are stationed in Niger as they work to fight rebels in a nearby region. However, consistent protests have broken out among hundreds of Niger’s citizens who urge their country to sever affiliations with their former colonial ruler.
This is nothing new for Niger and neighboring nations that have been overthrown in military interventions which aim to jettison their “Françafrique” postcolonial ties. Military takeovers in Mali in 2020 and Burkina Faso in 2022 forced France to withdraw their troops to Niger. Now Niger is fighting back against that occupation.
After Niger gained independence from France in 1960, the nation suffered through numerous political revolts, droughts, and poverty. The country is still undergoing the lingering issues with slavery, which wasn’t banned in Niger until 2003.
The Associated Press reports that even after decolonization, France continued to use its ties to reap benefits in Africa, and even when opposition emerged, French-backed leaders often returned to power. Even though French connections remained, anti-France sentiment continued to grow and flourish.
Unlike his predecessors, French President Emmanuel Macron has not increased or launched new French military operations in Africa in an effort to move past postcolonial intercessions and encourage more equitable partnerships.
“It’s tempting to talk about an end to Françafrique,” Thomas Borrel, a spokesperson for Survie, an advocacy group that denounces France’s postcolonial policies in Africa, told AP. “Françafrique is characterized by institutions still in place — French troops still in Africa; the CFA franc currency; and a French paternalistic culture that must be changed, including at the summit of the French state.”
Today, more than 5,500 French troops are spread across six African countries, including more than 3,000 in permanent bases in Gabon, Djibouti, Senegal and Ivory Coast. Along with the 1,500 troops stationed in Niger, there are 1,000 more in Chad.
Niger, a mass producer of uranium, is reportedly counting on increased oil exploration and gold mining to revive its economy.