The recent military coup in Niger has exposed deeper underlying issues, with former French ambassador Gerard Araud pointing to the neocolonial relationship between France and various African countries as a significant contributing factor to the crisis.
Araud, a seasoned diplomat, stated that the coup could be seen as a rejection of the so-called ‘Francafrique‘ and reflects the rejection of the French presence in Niger. He attributes the crisis to France’s colonial past, which has led to a “revolt of the youth” in the region, with national governments being viewed as Paris’ puppets. The absence of a concerted African strategy from Europe is considered a “failure” in handling the complex relations between the continent and its former colonial rulers.
The ongoing insurgency by Al-Qaeda and Islamic State-linked groups in Niger adds to the country’s political instability. Despite foreign security assistance from France and the United States, the situation remains challenging. Army general Abdouramane Tchiani’s recent declaration of himself as head of state reflects the deep-seated political tensions in Niger. The country has a history of coup attempts, with one happening just days before President Mohamed Bazoum’s inauguration in 2021.
French influence in Africa dates back to the 17th century and intensified during the 19th century with Algeria’s invasion. Niger came under French control in the 1890s, facing resistance from local ethnic groups. It eventually became a French colony in 1922 and gained independence in 1960. However, France has maintained an active presence in the Sahel region. While French forces were initially seen as “freedom fighters” during their operations in North Mali, Araud warns that every liberating army can become an occupier over time.
The complex historical ties between France and Niger raise questions about the role of former colonial powers in the region’s ongoing struggles and political turmoil.
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