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Niger: does the coup attempt in Niamey mark the end of the presence of the French army in the Sahel?

Niger: does the coup attempt in Niamey mark the end of the presence of the French army in the Sahel?

Perfectly illegitimate“: Emmanuel Macron condemned Friday from Papua New Guinea”with the utmost firmness the military coup“ongoing in Niger,”dangerous” for the region, and called “on releaseof President Mohamed Bazoum. This coup d’etat is perfectly illegitimate and deeply dangerous for Nigeriens, for Niger, and for the entire region.“, noted the French president during a press conference. “This is why we call for the release of President Bazoum and the restoration of constitutional order.“, he added.

>> “The people did not choose these politicians”: the coup attempt in Niger supported by part of the population

Niger, a poor country with a history of coups, was one of France’s last allies in the Sahel, a region plagued by instability, precariousness and jihadist attacks. The coup in Niamey is the third in this area since 2020, after the arrival of soldiers in power in Mali and Burkina Faso. And the French military presence seems more suspended than ever in the region. It is estimated that there are around 1,500 to 2,000 French soldiers in the country.

If the putschists of Niamey follow their neighbors, they could quickly ask France to leave the place. Moreover, as of Thursday July 27, these soldiers accused France of having violated the closing of the borders by landing a military plane at the international airport of Niamey. They called “once and for all to strict compliance with the provisions” taken by the junta. A few minutes earlier, the putschists had called “thea quiet population“after incidents during a demonstration in Niamey organized to support them, during which Russian flags flew and anti-French slogans were chanted.

“It’s a historic period for France that is ending”

In the short and medium term, France could therefore completely disappear from the landscape in the Sahel, thus signing the end of what has been called Françafrique in this part of the continent. It must be said that the fallback solutions for the French army are few.

There is no fallback in the regionunderlines the journalist specializing in Africa, Antoine Glaser. This means that there will undoubtedly be a part of the French soldiers, between 1,500 and 2,000 personnel, who will return to France. I can’t imagine them settling in Chad, when there are going to be extremely uncertain elections in N’Djamena, with the Déby dynasty still in power. Little by little, a historic period for France is coming to an end, a post-colonial period of military presence. From Mauritania to Sudan, the jihadists have succeeded in scaring away all Westerners.”

Moreover, before this coup, the trend was already to reduce the number of French soldiers in the Sahel and in this part of Africa. It was Emmanuel Macron’s wish to withdraw troops from Gabon, Senegal or even Côte d’Ivoire. Recent events in Niger could further accelerate this trend.

In fact, the French soldiers would be, in addition to those of Niger, still a thousand in Chad currently, 1,500 in Djibouti and a few hundred in the more distant bases of the Sahel. It should be remembered that France counted up to 5,000 men in Mali, in the time of Barkhane, the very people some of whom had to leave after the alliance between the junta in power in Bamako and Russia.

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