In the aftermath of the recent coup in Niger, tensions have been escalating as thousands of people in the capital city of Niamey have taken to the streets, demanding the departure of French forces from the country.
This call comes as the new military leaders accuse France of interfering in the country’s affairs and of attempting to impose a neocolonial relationship. The protesters gathered near a military base housing French soldiers, holding up banners that boldly proclaimed, “French army, leave our country.”
The military government of Niger, which seized power on July 26th, has accused French President Emmanuel Macron of using divisive rhetoric in his comments about the coup. Macron, on the other hand, has backed the deposed President Mohamed Bazoum and has refused to recognize Niger’s new rulers. This has further fueled the anger among the demonstrators calling for the French ambassador and troops to withdraw.
Sylvain Itte, France’s ambassador, has remained in Niger despite a 48-hour deadline to leave the country that was given more than a week ago. President Macron has expressed his support for the ambassador’s decision to stay, stating that he “applauds” the move. This defiance has only intensified the demands for French forces to depart from the country.
The presence of French troops in Niger has long been a contentious issue, with many viewing it as a continuation of neocolonialism. France has maintained a significant military presence in its former colonies in Africa, ostensibly to combat terrorism and ensure regional stability. However, critics argue that this presence hampers the sovereignty and independence of these countries, as well as perpetuates a legacy of colonialism.
It is important to note that the frustration expressed by the protesters is not limited solely to the military’s interference in the country’s affairs but also to the perceived lack of progress and development under French influence. Many Nigeriens feel that France’s presence has not resulted in significant improvements in their living conditions or the overall development of the country.
The demonstrations in Niamey reflect a growing sentiment among the population that they want to chart their own future free from external influence. Protesters believe that the departure of French forces and the cessation of neocolonial relationships will allow Niger to assert itself as an independent nation, with full control over its own destiny.
According to Ericson Mangoli, the recent protests have been relatively calm and well-organised. However, on Saturday, there was a breach of the barriers set up by security forces, police, and the military, with some demonstrators attempting to forcefully enter the base.
In response, the military has increased security around the French base, which accommodates approximately 1,500 French troops. They have also issued warnings against any attempts at forcible entry and emphasised the potential consequences that may arise.
Despite these measures, the protesters remain steadfast in their determination not to leave. Their demand is clear – they want all military bases removed from their country. Doubou-Kambou Hamidou vocalised this sentiment during an interview: “We don’t want it because terrorism has plagued our nation for over 13 years. They show no interest in combating terrorism,” he expressed passionately to Who Owns Africa.
‘Blatant Interference’: The Growing Tensions Between Niger and France
In the aftermath of the recent military coup in Niger, tensions have been escalating between the country’s military rulers and the French government. The military rulers have accused France of what they call “blatant interference” for their backing of former President Bazoum, who has been in custody since the coup on July 26th.
French President Macron has been vocal about his support for Bazoum, stating that he has been in daily contact with him since his removal from power. Macron made it clear that France does not recognize the coup leaders, and any decisions made regarding Niger will be based on their conversations with Bazoum.
This show of support from France has not been well-received by the military junta in Niger. They see it as an infringement on their sovereignty and an attempt to undermine their authority. The situation has been further complicated by the involvement of the Economic Community of West African States, a regional bloc that has threatened military intervention if diplomacy fails to reinstate Bazoum as president.
Macron, in response to the standoff, called on all states in the region to adopt a responsible policy. He stated that France supports ECOWAS’s diplomatic efforts and is ready to support military action if necessary. This statement has only heightened tensions between France and the military junta in Niger.
Analysts believe that France’s involvement in Niger may be rooted in its recent forced departures from neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso due to military coups. France does not want to appear weak or be seen backing down from another conflict in the region. This puts the military rulers in a difficult position, as they feel the need to assert their authority by making the French ambassador leave Niger.
The growing tensions between Niger and France have raised concerns about the future of the relationship between the two countries. If not handled diplomatically, there is a risk of clashes between the military junta and France. The situation is delicate, and both sides must tread carefully to prevent further escalation.