As of October 23, France completed its military withdrawal from Niger following months of local protests. From 2013 to 2022, France deployed over 3,000 troops to the countries of the G5 Sahel (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger) as part of a counterterrorism mission known as Operation Barkhane. After coups in Mali, Burkina Faso, and now Niger, all three countries have expelled the French presence. While coverage in western media has fixed on the coups themselves, the story on the ground is more complicated. The actions of the coup governments are backed by broad social movements and popular opposition to France’s relationship to the region, which extends far beyond Operation Barkhane.
France’s ambassador to Niger, Sylvain Itté, left Niamey early on September 27, three days after Paris announced that it would also withdraw its 1,500 troops from the West African country by the end of the year. Niger has joined its regional neighbors, Mali and Burkina Faso, in expelling French troops from its soil. The three countries have since forged a pact for collective defense and mutual cooperation, known as the Alliance of Sahel States (AES), amid rising attacks by armed groups in the region. The AES was formed just days before the 78th session of the United National General Assembly.
French President Emmanuel Macron said Sunday that French will remove its troops and ambassador from Niger, as the military junta that took over the country in July wants French forces out. “France has decided to bring back its ambassador, and in the coming hours our ambassador and several diplomats will return to France,” Macron said on French TV, according to AP. “And we will put an end to our military cooperation with the Niger authorities.” The comments show France is backing down from its hardline position on the military junta that ousted Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum.
In Bamako, Mali, on September 16, the governments of Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger created the Alliance of Sahel States (AES). On X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, Colonel Assimi Goïta, the head of the transitional government of Mali, wrote that the Liptako-Gourma Charter which created the AES would establish “an architecture of collective defense and mutual assistance for the benefit of our populations.” The hunger for such regional cooperation goes back to the period when France ended its colonial rule. Between 1958 and 1963, Ghana and Guinea were part of the Union of African States, which was to have been the seed for wider pan-African unity. Mali was a member as well between 1961 and 1963.
On Tuesday September 19, the opening day of the United Nations General Assembly, anti-imperialist activists rallied outside the UN Headquarters in New York City to demand that France end its imperialist meddling in West Africa and the Sahel. Organizers with the Party for Socialism and Liberation, the December 12th Movement, Bridging Africa and Black America, and others denounced the neocolonial policies of the European nation and voiced solidarity and support to Burkina Faso, Mali, Guinea, and Niger, which recently underwent coups opposing French neocolonialism. Activists demanded that France end its neocolonial exploits in the Sahel, principally Niger.
In a major advancement towards mutual cooperation, the governments of Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger have formed the Alliance of Sahel States (AES). The move was finalized with the signing of the Liptako-Gourma Charter, named after the tri-border region shared by the three countries, in Mali’s capital Bamako on Saturday, September 16. “This alliance will be a combination of military and economic efforts between the three countries…Our priority is the fight against terrorism,” Malian Defense Minister Abdoulaye Diop told journalists. The three countries have committed to “prevent, manage, and resolve any armed rebellion or threat to the territorial integrity and sovereignty…
Nigeria is Africa’s most populous state and is listed as having the largest economy on the continent with huge deposits of oil, natural gas and other strategic resources. In possession of these material assets along with the 223 million people that inhabit the West African state, the achievements of Nigeria should be limitless. However, the system of neo-colonialism in Africa, where the national wealth of various states largely benefits imperialism, is still maintaining a dominant position over the labor and resources of the people. This system of exploitation constitutes the major impediment to genuine sovereignty, economic independence and social emancipation.
Questioning the “sincerity” of France’s comments about the withdrawal of its troops from Niger, the transitional military government, the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP), has accused the former colonizer of mobilizing for war. CNSP spokesperson Col. Maj. Amadou Abdramane said on September 9 that a “hundred or so rotations of [French] military cargo planes unloaded large quantities of war material and equipment” in multiple member countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). He added that “two A400M type military transport aircraft and a Dornier 328 were deployed as reinforcements in Ivory Coast”, and “two Super Puma type multi-role helicopters” and “around forty armored vehicles” have been deployed “in Kandi and Malanville in Benin”.
By adding two new African member-states to its roster, last week's summit in Johannesburg heralding the expanded BRICS 11 showed once again that Eurasian integration is inextricably linked to the integration of Afro-Eurasia. Belarus is now proposing to hold a joint summit between BRICS 11, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU). President Aleksandr Lukashenko's vision for the convergence of these multilateral organizations may, in due time, lead to the Mother of All Multipolarity Summits. But Afro-Eurasia is a much more complicated proposition.
Millions across the West Africa Sahel region and around the world have loudly objected to the imperialist-instigated threats against the newly installed National Council for the Defense of the Homeland (CNSP) government in Niger. From left political groupings to more moderate and even conservative forces recognize the grave danger inherent in the proclamations of some members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to stage a military intervention into Niger aimed at restoring the former President Mohamed Bazoum. In Niger itself, thousands of young people have appeared at the main stadium in the capital of Niamey to sign up as volunteers committed to defend the uranium-rich state in the case of a hostile invasion.
When US Acting Deputy Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland, traveled to South Africa on July 29, her reputation as a blunt instrument of Washington’s hegemonic interests preceded her. According to a veteran South African official who attended meetings with the senior US diplomat in Pretoria, however, Nuland and her team were demonstrably unprepared to grapple with recent developments on the African continent — particularly the military coup that removed Niger’s pro-Western government hours before she launched her multi-stop tour of the region. “In over 20 years working with the Americans, I have never seen them so desperate,” the official told The Grayzone, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
New York City, New York - Demonstrators gathered in front of the French Mission to the United Nations in New York City Aug. 22 at a protest organized by the December 12th Movement, calling for “France out of Africa/Hands off Niger.” Speakers passionately demanded the withdrawal of U.S. and French troops from West Africa and the closure of military bases in Niger. Their powerful voices highlighted the U.S. and Europe’s ongoing colonial exploitation of Africa’s rich natural resources. With an emphasis on the dire consequences of this criminal domination, the speakers shed light on the harsh living conditions faced by the masses of people in West African nations.
In 1958, the poet and trade union leader Abdoulaye Mamani of Zinder (Niger) won an election in his home region against Hamani Diori, one of the founders of the Nigerien Progressive Party. This election result posed a problem for French colonial authorities, who wanted Diori to lead the new Niger. Mamani stood as a candidate for Niger’s left-wing Sawaba party, which was one of the leading forces in the independence movement against France. Sawaba was the party of the talakawa, the ‘commoners’, or the petit peuple (‘little folk’), the party of peasants and workers who wanted Niger to realise their hopes.
The 4-week old turmoil in the West African state of Niger is taking a curious turn that no longer allows a binary vision of “neo-colonialism and imperialism” versus “national liberation”. Niger’s coup leaders are making overtures to the United States and keeping the Russian military contractors, Wagner PMC, at arm’s length — at least, at the present stage of transition of power. The speed with which Washington deployed Kathleen FitzGibbon, an ace Africa hand with intelligence background, as its new ambassador to Niamey signals diplomacy as the preferred course while keeping all options on the table.
The political situation in Niger and West Africa as a whole continues to be in a flux. While people and their movements across the region are mobilizing against war and neo-colonial intervention, regional bodies have taken a stand in favor of the status quo. In a communique released on August 22, the Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the African Union (AU) announced its decision to suspend Niger from all the bloc’s activities in response to the July 26 military takeover. The declaration released by the PSC on Tuesday had been adopted at a meeting held on August 14.