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‘France out!’ when former colonies give Paris the boot

Anti-French sentiment in the Sahel is growing -- as is Russian activity, often via Wagner
Anti-French sentiment in the Sahel is growing -- as is Russian activity, often via Wagner - Copyright AFP Yasuyoshi CHIBA
Anti-French sentiment in the Sahel is growing -- as is Russian activity, often via Wagner - Copyright AFP Yasuyoshi CHIBA

After Mali, Burkina Faso and the Central African Republic, France is being forced to withdraw troops from yet another former African colony that pivoted to Russia after souring on Paris: Niger.

Faced with growing anti-French sentiment since a military takeover in Niger in July, French President Emmanuel Macron has announced plans to bring home 1,500 counter-terrorism troops, along with France’s ambassador to Niamey.

The pullout will be the fourth in under two years by the French, who still have bases in a handful of African countries.

Here is a short summary of the three other routs:

– Mali –

Nearly a decade after French troops were hailed as liberators in northern Mali for helping government forces drive out al-Qaeda-affiliated jihadists, France pulled out of Mali in 2022 after a bitter row with the country’s military leadership.

Relations soured following back-to-back coups in 2020 and 2021 and growing hostility towards France from the Malian public, which accused France’s regional counter-terrorism operation of failing to stop jihadists pushing into the centre of the country.

Bamako’s junta leaders struck up a partnership with the Moscow-linked mercenary group Wagner instead and Mali became one of Russia’s rare defenders on the global stage following its invasion of Ukraine.

– Central African Republic –

French troops were also deployed in recent years in the Central African Republic, helping keep the peace after a fierce bout of inter-communal bloodshed in 2013.

But there too, French troops were forced to leave after the president called in Wagner to quell a rebellion and France became the victims of a disinformation campaign allegedly whipped up by Moscow.

The last troops from France’s Operation Sangaris left in December 2022.

– Burkina Faso –

In January 2023, the junta that had come to power in a coup in Burkina Faso in September 2022 — the second coup in nine months — gave the 400 French special forces stationed there a month to leave the country.

Like Mali and Central African Republic, the small French contingent, which had been powerless to stop a devastating jihadist insurgency, had become increasingly unpopular among the public.

Burkina has since held talks with Russia on developing military cooperation.

AFP
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With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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