Europe ends the year in Africa with negative results

The year 2023 ended as a catastrophic year for Europe on its “southern flank” without sugarcoating the pill. On February 20, the French army officially announced the end of its operations in Burkina Faso; on June 1st closed the Spanish base at Koulikoro (Mali) and all European forces retreated to the capital; On September 15, Burkina Faso expelled the French military attaché; On September 27, the French ambassador to Niger was expelled along with all French military force in the country; MONUSCO (United Nations Mission in Mali) completed its withdrawal in December this year; This Thursday the French embassy in Niger was closed; etc. The immediate result of this was a growing military and commercial partnership with countries such as Russia, China, Turkey and the Arab countries.

Another serious turning point came when Niger and Burkina Faso announced on November 29th that they would withdraw from the G5 Sahel, an organization of states founded in 2014 under the protection of Europe to cooperate in the fight against terrorism. Mali had already withdrawn in May 2022 and less than a week passed before the remaining members of the alliance (Mauritania and Chad) announced the start of their final dissolution. In return, a new coalition is named the Alliance of Sahel States (AES) These include Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, countries ruled by the military junta and openly taking opposing positions to Europe. This is a new setback in European security policy, as the Russian ambassador to Mali and Niger, Igor Gromyko, announced this week his country’s willingness to cooperate with the AES.

The alternative to failure was for the EU to make a statement on December 11th The intention to establish a new initiative in the south of the Sahel, Ivory Coast, Benin, Ghana and Togo and the Gulf of Guinea was confirmed.. It will last two years and will be undertaken with the aim of “developing the necessary capabilities to contain and respond to pressure exerted by armed terrorist groups”. There is great fear that jihadists will penetrate the borders of these countries (as has already happened several times in Togo and Benin). Leitmotif this new stage of European security in Africa.

The example of Niger

An example of the struggle between Russia and Europe is Niger.

The French embassy in Niger announced on Thursday the closure of its delegation “indefinitely” as tensions rose between Paris and Niamey since last July’s coup. No European country has been able to replace the Gauls, and who will take the Nigerian cake will remain to be seen in the coming months, but in the offices and on diplomatic channels two opponents face each other to be the winners: Russia and the United States.

From Moscow, already established in Mali and Burkina Faso, they offer the military junta an alternative to military cooperation to combat terrorist groups, just as they have shown interest in cooperation on energy development in other African countries. In early December, Russian officials visited the junta in Niamey. They also bring with them a rhetoric that matches that of the putschists. Where the United States and Europe can spread this very unwanted whiff of neo-colonialism, Vladimir Putin has sought to build a discourse that presents an alternative to Western values, drawing on Pan-Africanism when necessary. Just as people seem to want a partnership with Russia, as the images collected during the coup show.

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The United States has already made initial overtures and met its new ambassador, Kathleen FitzGibbon, with General Tchiani several times (the first time in August). They showed a conciliatory intention in the first weeks after the coup. Where the French left, the US drone base in Niamey is still operating, while unconfirmed rumors suggest that the United States will supply military equipment to the Nigerian army in the coming months.

Washington’s interest in maintaining its presence in Niger arises from France’s recent inability to defend NATO interests in Africa, but also from its position alongside countries such as Libya, Nigeria, Mali and Algeria… nations that are on the African map are of great importance.

Among other Russian successes the II Russia-Africa Summit could be celebrated as a success in Saint Petersburg this summer as Vladimir Putin strengthens alliances with Burkina Faso, Niger and Guinea-Bissau in the following months. Wagner’s restructuring of the Afrika Korps created after Prigozhin’s death They also allow mercenaries to engage their governments in a growing number of countries for a reasonable price.

A diplomacy that is stagnating

The feeling of rejection among Africans towards Europeans is proportional to the number of immigrants arriving in the Canary Islands, also reaching a historic high this year (more than 31,000 people), as well as in Europe in general. The long-term consequences of this combination could also become apparent in France in 2023 The death of a Maghreb boy at the hands of French police led to dozens of cities being hit by violent protests. Europe continued to fail in its relations with Africa, damaged by the colonial wound, even as King Charles of England apologized in Kenya for the events during British colonization. In his speech he used evasive language and refrained from offering compensation that would satisfy those affected.

One can say without fear of being mistaken that Europe is losing the battle in Africa. Because it is a fight against the spread of jihadism and against authoritarian values. There is no point in maintaining relations with Senegal or Ivory Coast when their populations are already starting to support anti-European presidential candidates and predict a 2024 along the same lines as this year. France is the big loser for the second year in a row Spain is investing its efforts in the immigration issue, which grants votes here. Germany maintains a temporary presence in the Sahel, but has distanced itself from Namibia, a former colony and a popular holiday destination for holidaymakers not traveling to Mallorca etc.

The United States (which is not Europe) has concluded military agreements with Morocco, is moving closer to the junta in Niger, has resumed the pace of its cooperation with Somalia in the fight against Al-Shabaab and, of course, continues its relations with Rwanda Republic of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and recently tried to organize an international coalition to protect Red Sea trade. coalition, which, by the way, blocked Spain in Europe.

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