NIGER. The coup in Niger raises concerns about the future of the French military presence in the region. While 1,500 French soldiers are currently stationed in the country, the question of the reorientation of their mission arises.
After Mali and Burkina Faso, it is the turn of Niger, a country in the Sahel, to face a coup d'etat. President-elect Mohamed Bazoum is currently being held captive by members of the presidential guard, led by General Abdourahamane Tiani, who is now the country's new strongman. This coup was justified by the deterioration of the security situation, which worries the French military presence in the region. Niger, located in the heart of the Sahel, is one of the poorest countries in the world, with a population of around 20 million and high population growth. Niamey is France's last ally in the region to fight jihadist groups, while neighboring countries have called for the withdrawal of French soldiers from their territory.
Since the summer of 2022, France has redeployed part of its forces from Mali to neighboring Niger, leading to a significant reduction in its military personnel in the Sahel, from around 4,500 to 2,500 men, including 1,500 in Niger and 1 000 in Chad. Previously, Niger served mainly as a transit base for operations in Mali, but now the country hosts the heart of the French military with a planned airbase in Niamey, where five Reaper drones and at least three Mirage fighter jets are deployed. . The mission of the French forces is to support the Nigerien troops in combat and to help them strengthen their armies, while the Islamic State group in the Sahara regains power on the Malo-Nigerian border.
The current situation in Niger raises questions about the fate of the 1,500 French soldiers deployed in the country. According to the journalist specializing in Africa, Antoine Glaser, part of these troops could return to France, thus marking the end of a historic period of post-colonial military presence in the region. The terrorist threat, however, remains extremely volatile, raising concerns about a possible opportunity for terrorist groups in this time of confusion. The coup in Niger is of particular concern to France, which has suspended all development aid and budget support actions in response to the situation. President Emmanuel Macron strongly condemned the putsch. "Anyone attacking French nationals, the army, diplomats and rights of way would see France respond immediately and intractably. The President of the Republic will not tolerate any attack against France and its interests", thus reacted the 'Elysium.
Skepticism towards the French military presence in Niger is not limited to the context of the coup, but also stems from certain inhabitants who deplore the country's lack of sovereignty vis-à-vis the former colonial power. Some believe that France never considered Niger as a partner, but rather as an overseas colony. Demonstrators expressed anti-France slogans in Niamey, highlighting the desire to strengthen the country's sovereignty from a diplomatic point of view. General Tchiani, Niger's new strongman, showed himself to be moderate towards the country's allies, but expressed his desire to renew cooperation with the putschist regimes of neighboring countries, Mali and Burkina Faso. Some citizens of Niger believe that their country should draw inspiration from these examples to assert its sovereignty and not depend exclusively on France.
While the future of the French military presence in Niger remains uncertain, France's interests in the country remain multiple. The security challenge in the face of the terrorist threat, the stability of the Sahel region, as well as diplomatic partnerships are all factors that will have to be taken into account in the possible reorientation of the mission of the French soldiers in this delicate and unstable region.