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Thursday, November 30, 2023

“France ousted!” as former colonies say farewell to Paris

After Mali, Burkina Faso, and the Central African Republic, France finds itself compelled to withdraw its troops from yet another former African colony that has shifted its allegiance to Russia after souring on Paris: Niger.

Confronted with mounting anti-French sentiment following a military takeover in Niger in July, French President Emmanuel Macron has unveiled plans to recall 1,500 counter-terrorism troops, along with France’s ambassador to Niamey.

This departure marks the fourth such withdrawal in less than two years for the French, who still maintain bases in a handful of African nations.

Here is a concise recap of the three previous exits:

  1. Almost a decade after French forces were welcomed as liberators in northern Mali for assisting government forces in ousting Al Qaeda-affiliated militants, France departed Mali in 2022, following a bitter dispute with the country’s military leadership. Relations soured after consecutive coups in 2020 and 2021 and a growing hostility towards France from the Malian public. They accused France’s regional counter-terrorism operation of failing to prevent militants from advancing into the country’s center. Bamako’s junta leaders formed an alliance with the Moscow-linked mercenary group Wagner instead, and Mali emerged as one of Russia’s rare defenders on the global stage after its invasion of Ukraine.
  2. French troops were also deployed in recent years in the Central African Republic to help maintain peace following a period of intense inter-communal violence in 2013. However, French troops were compelled to depart after the president called upon Wagner to suppress a rebellion, and France fell victim to a disinformation campaign allegedly orchestrated by Moscow. The last troops from France’s Operation Sangaris departed in December 2022.
  3. In January 2023, the junta that had seized power in a coup in Burkina Faso in September 2022— the second coup in nine months—gave the 400 French special forces stationed there one month to exit the country. Similar to Mali and the Central African Republic, the small French contingent, unable to quell a devastating jihadist insurgency, had become increasingly unpopular among the public. Burkina has since engaged in talks with Russia to develop military cooperation.

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