Niger in Crisis: Tensions Peak Between Junta and France Amid Jihadist Fear
By Mayeni Jones, BBC News, NiameyNiger, a West African nation already grappling with jihadist insurgencies, has found itself in the epicenter of political unrest following a military coup in July. The recent directive for the withdrawal of 1,500 French troops has raised concerns of further empowering insurgents.
Niger has historically been perceived as a stronghold for Western allies in the Sahel, a region that has become a hub for jihadist activities. While both the US and France have stationed troops within Niger’s borders, tensions between Niger and France have been simmering.
when France declined to recognize the newly-formed military government in Niger. This culminated in the junta’s demand for the French ambassador and its troops to exit the country.
The grounds outside a French military base in Niamey have been transformed into a protest site. Imam Abdoulaziz Abdoulaye Amadou, addressing a crowd during a prayer sit-in, compared the strained relations to a marital separation, suggesting that “just as divorces take time, so too will Niger’s separation from France.”
In response to the situation, French President Emmanuel Macron indicated that Niger “is no longer interested in fighting terrorism,” a statement further aggravating the citizens of Niger.
However, concerns arise from those who believe that the removal of French troops might exacerbate the already tenuous situation in the region. According to Idrissa Waziri, a Paris-based spokesperson for the ousted President Mohamed Bazoum, “France’s hasty withdrawal has already escalated security concerns in Mali and Burkina Faso.”
Fahiraman Rodrigue Koné, Sahel project manager at the South Africa-based Institute for Security Studies, opined that it is premature to predict the security ramifications of France’s exit. He pointed out the distinctions between Niger and Mali, emphasizing the more supportive role France played in Niger and the experience Nigerien forces possess in combating terror groups.
A glimmer of hope is visible in the Sahel security alliance formed between Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger. This collaborative approach could potentially bolster regional security.
The overarching concern remains: as the Sahel becomes a focal point in the war against terror, the decisions of its leadership will play a pivotal role in dictating the future of the region. With Niger at a crossroads, the world watches closely.