Popular demonstrations fill the streets of the Western African nation after a military coup that occurred against the democratically elected President Bazoum last week.
Massive demonstrations led to attacks on the French Embassy as well as the condemnation of other West African nations that imposed sanctions on Niger as well as demanding the departure of foreign troops from their land, including both the military bases of The United States and France. The West African Economic Community (ECOWAS) has also threatened force if President Bazoum is not reinstated by Sunday August 6th.
France, the former colonial power of Niger and much of Western Africa, responded threatening retaliation on any action taken against French nationals. Macron going as far as to claim that the coup d’etat is, “completely illegitimate and profoundly dangerous for the Nigeriens, Niger, and the whole region”. During Macron’s presidency aid to the region has increased and Macron began the process of returning cultural artefacts stolen during the French occupation of West Africa. French military presence in the Sahel region remains present to fight jihadist militants that kill local civilians, police, soldiers, and ECOWAS members. Despite these efforts, France has grown incredibly unpopular among many nations in the region.
In neighboring Mali in May of 2022, following a breakdown in relations the French forces began pulling out of the nation and as of late June 2023, Mali removed the French language as its official language with overwhelming support. The new Constitution passed with almost 97% of the vote on June 18th in a move to recognize local African languages such as Bambara, Bobo, and Dogon. In Algeria, President Abelmadijd Tebboune has moved primary education to be in Arabic and English stating, “French is a spoil of war, but English is an international language”. These changes all signal a rapid decline in the presence and perception of France in its former colonies in West Africa.
Anti-French Sentiments in the region emerge from the apparent wealth disparities between France and the African states. Among young Malians and Nigeriens, they view France as the main reason for the prevailing poverty in their nations. Despite the independence of these states France has maintained a very prominent presence in many African nations. One of the best examples of the way that France maintains economic control over these states is through the CFA Franc, a regional currency which is directly tied to the euro, by French guarantee. Critics claim that this allows the French government to manipulate the economic power of the nations who use it as their national currency including Mali, Niger, Senegal and other former French colonies in Africa.
These emerging coups in African states signal a dramatic step away from democracy, but to others it represents the ability for self-determination in former French colonies.
Written by Administrative Intern Charles Larkin