On Sunday, September 24th, President Emmanuel Macron announced that France would end its military presence in Niger and recall its ambassador from the country. “France has decided to withdraw its ambassador. In the next hours our ambassador and several diplomats will return to France,” Macron said. He also stated that military cooperation was “over” and 1500 French troops would leave in “the months to come” with a full pullout by year’s end.
France’s exit trails the coup that ousted democratically-elected President Mohamed Bazoum in July. After which, Abdourahmane Tchiani, the head of Niger’s presidential guard, declared himself the leader of a transitional government in the country.
The military junta welcomed Macron’s announcement, as he had previously refused to acknowledge the new government in Niger. “This Sunday, we celebrate a new step towards the sovereignty of Niger,” they said in a televised address. “This is a historic moment, which speaks to the determination and will of the Nigerien people.”
Macron reiterated France’s stance, affirming that Bazoum was being detained against his will and remains the only recognized legitimate authority in the country. “He was targeted by this coup d’etat because he was carrying out courageous reforms and because there was a largely ethnic settling of scores and a lot of political cowardice,” he said.
Niger is one of several former French colonies in West and Central Africa that have experienced military takeovers. This trend has been observed in Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali, and Chad, with the most recent coup occurring in Gabon last month. On the 16th of September, Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso formed a mutual defence pact against possible threats of armed rebellion or external aggression.
Coups often have damaging effects on a country’s economy, including high inflation rates, increased national debt, and poor economic growth. The coup in Niger has already led to sanctions from ECOWAS, the African Union, the European Union, and the United Nations, with many Western allies withdrawing their financial support.
The withdrawal of foreign aid will likely lead to a surge in unemployment and further discontent with the economic situation in the country. Mali’s GDP growth declined to 1.8 per cent due to a combination of ECOWAS sanctions, high food inflation, and parasite infestations affecting agricultural production. This resulted in increased poverty incidence and a postponement of fiscal consolidation goals.
The closed borders imposed by sanctions have led to soaring food prices, burdening the people of Niger amidst economic and political instability. With a heavy dependence on foreign aid, the military junta’s ability to fund development initiatives will be significantly challenged due to a lack of adequate domestic revenue. Niger was the last partner working with the West in the fight against violent extremism in the Sahel, and the junta’s decision to end military cooperation with France further weakens the counter-terrorism efforts in the region.
There are concerns that the coup in Niger could create a security gap, allowing insurgent activities to escalate. Compared to past democratically-elected governments, doubts exist about the military junta’s ability to control extremist violence. Military takeovers often exacerbate insecurity, leading to a rise in terrorist attacks, as seen in Mali and Burkina Faso.