Tensions Rise in Niger as Protesters Demand French Military Exit

Protesters in Niger's capital, Niamey, have taken a bold stand against the French military presence in the West African nation

by Faruk Imamovic
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Tensions Rise in Niger as Protesters Demand French Military Exit
© X/@JackFought_1

Protesters in Niger's capital, Niamey, have taken a bold stand against the French military presence in the West African nation. Following several calls from civil society organizations that oppose this foreign military footprint, hundreds gathered near a French base, their banners echoing a collective sentiment: "French army leave our country".

A Historical Backdrop of Strained Relations

Niger and France share a complex history, with the former being a colony of the latter until 1960. Recent events have intensified this already tangled relationship. Last Friday, Niger's military regime lashed out at France, accusing them of "blatant interference" for supporting the country's ousted president.

Such confrontations and accusations underscore a deep-seated mistrust rooted in colonial legacies and contemporary geopolitics. President Mohamed Bazoum, who was viewed as a beacon of hope for stability in Niger following his 2021 election, was detained on July 26 by members of his own guard.

The situation deteriorated when France, Niger's ex-colonial ruler, sided with Bazoum, drawing the ire of the new regime.

Unraveling Military Ties

A mere week after Bazoum's detention, on August 3, the Nigerien regime announced its decision to cancel military agreements with France.

This was a significant move, given that approximately 1,500 French soldiers are currently stationed in Niger. In response, Colonel Pierre Gaudilliere, a French military spokesman, conveyed a clear message. He warned that the French forces are on high alert, ready to counter any escalations that might threaten French diplomatic and military establishments in the country.

"Measures have been taken to protect these premises,” he further added. Despite the rising tensions and the palpable hostility on the streets of Niamey, France remains steadfast in its commitment to Niger. French President Emmanuel Macron confirmed this week that the French ambassador would remain in Niger, reiterating the nation's support for the detained president, Bazoum.

In a region marred by instability and a complex web of international relations, the unfolding events in Niger are keenly watched by global powers. The continued presence of French troops, protests from the Nigerien populace, and the political developments in the coming days will shape the trajectory of Niger's future relations, not just with France but with the international community at large.

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