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Losing Niger is one of the toughest strikes for France in Africa

August 18, 2023 at 9:56 am

Abdourahmane Tchiani and other army commanders held a meeting in the capital, Niamey, Niger on July 28, 2023 [Balima Boureima – Anadolu Agency]

On 26 July, young Nigerien General Abdourahamane Tiani along with a group of his military colleagues carried out a coup d’état in the West African country.

Unlike tens of coups d’état in West Africa, this one was not orchestrated by France. Its military leader is not a friend to France, but a very strong enemy, who sees it as an oppressive power that has been stealing that country’s natural resources and keeping Nigeriens as very poor slaves involved in the service of the French masters.

Tiani deposed President Mohamed Bazoum, who is loyal to France, and named 21 people as ministers in the post-coup government. Media reports stated that the new government, which is headed by civilian Prime Minister Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine, includes three generals as ministers of defence, interior and sports. 

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Le Monde reported that France demanded not only the release of deposed president Bazoum, but also his reinstatement to the presidential office as the freely-elected president.

Paris has much interest in Niger. Like other African countries, or former French colonies, Niger is a major source of uranium, supplying some 20 per cent of France’s needs. NGOs estimate one out of every three light bulbs in France is powered by uranium from Niger, while 90 per cent of Nigeriens do not have access to electricity. 

Meanwhile, Niger has been forced to pay “compensation” to France for the end of the colonisation of its land and the enslavement of its people, while France continues to hold the African state’s national reserves. 

France has a full-fledged military base in the Niger capital, Niamey, that hosts 1,500 French soldiers who are allegedly involved in fighting “terror” in the Sahel region – one of France’s strongholds in Africa and one of the largest reserves for natural resources which do not exist in Europe.

France and its allies call their efforts to reinstate French puppet Bazoum as the process to regain democracy and reinstate the constitution, however, Paris has been a major cause of instability.

The US Secretary of State has called on African countries to work to reinstate the constitutional system and Bazoum. Washington too has 1,000 troops in Niger to “fight terrorism”.

Germany and other countries in Europe and around the world are working with their partners in Africa to return Bazoum. These countries do not care about Nigeriens’ human rights, workers’ rights, children and women’s rights, they are concerned with the rights of the companies that are stealing the country’s natural resources and using them to light up France.

At the same time, they ignore thousands of Nigeriens, who took to the streets in support of the junta. They ignore thousands of Nigeriens who have been demonstrating in front of the French military base in Niamey, calling for an end to French domination and the expulsion of foreign troops.

Nigeriens believe that France has released terrorist agents to destabilise the country in an effort to return Bazoum to power and reestablish his dominance over the country’s natural resources. The junta has already accused France of releasing terrorists who killed 17 Nigerien troops.

However, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) – France’s hand in the region – has backed down from taking military action in Niger and the US has been seen to be adopting a soft approach towards the new leadership of Niamey.

France may now have lost its strategic treasure and the source of much of its wealth.

READ: Why military intervention in Niger could be catastrophic for everyone

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.