Academics and specialists have questioned the possibility of Russia succeeding in filling the vacuum left by France after President Emmanuel Macron announced the end of his country's diplomatic and military presence in Niger, two months after a military coup that toppled President Mohamed Bazoum.
According to Dr. Sayed Omar Sheikhna, director of the Regional Center for Research and Consultation and an expert on African affairs, Niger has concluded trilateral cooperation that also includes Mali and Burkina Faso, and it was agreed upon in the presence of the Russian Deputy Defense Minister.
In mid-September 2023, the three African countries – ruled by military councils – agreed to form a defense alliance to confront common internal and external threats, coinciding with a meeting held by the Russian official with the defense ministers of the three countries in the Malian capital.
Speaking to the "Beyond the News" program on (25/9/2023), Sheikhna believes that what happened is a clear indication that Russia will fill the French vacuum, but he doubted the possibility that its presence would be sufficient.
He also believes that Moscow has no ability to manage Africa's human, social, democratic and ethnic diversity, as well as the growing terrorist threats, pointing to the error of the approach taken by the military of these countries to replace the French military presence and bring in Wagner forces.
For his part, Professor of International Relations at the University of Geneva, Dr. Hosni Abedi, believes that France will not turn the page on Niger, as Paris will enter into negotiations with the coup leaders for the exit of its military forces, as well as preserving economic interests while giving guarantees of the safety of President Bazoum.
He pointed out that the military are pragmatic and know the importance of the French role and the comprehensive development approach that requires funding that Moscow or Beijing cannot afford, and therefore the technical cooperation that will result from the negotiations to withdraw troops will lead to a new relationship.
What did France lose?
With France's withdrawal from Niger, Paris has suffered a real loss militarily, politically, economically and strategically, according to Cheikhna, who said that the African country has lost what is left of its influence in the Sahel region despite its strong presence in Senegal, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Benin and Togo.
While Abedi confirms that the leaders of the coup in Niger achieved a victory in exchange for a major turn of French influence, after Paris was relying a lot on this country after the coups of Burkina Faso and Mali, in addition to that what happened represents a bad message to African countries that they cannot rely and bet on the Elysee.
The most dangerous message, he said, lies in the success of a military coup within an African country where French or American troops are present.
Why did Paris decline?
Returning to the reasons for France's decision to withdraw, our sheikh believes that Paris fell under the shock of the Niger coup, as it did not expect it to happen, and when it occurred, it did not rush to deal with it, indicating that it had the opportunity to intervene militarily in the first and second days of the coup, and for this Macron reached a dead end.
In addition, there are variables that have occurred, such as the American position, which differentiated from its French counterpart, amid Washington's desire to inherit influence in the West African region instead of Paris.
As well as the position of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which seemed weak, because - according to the guest - it cannot act without French or international support, which Abedi agreed with, who said that Paris has reached a dead end in light of the conviction that the ECOWAS forces are not ready and cannot carry out pioneering work for the return of Bazoum without France, and that any intervention will have serious consequences.
The professor of international relations at the University of Geneva pointed out that France became isolated at a time when America began a settlement with Niger and kept its forces, as well as Algeria's entry into the mediation line, and its rejection of military intervention leading to the Gabonese coup.
Regarding the justification used by Macron to leave Niger by claiming that it does not want to fight terrorism, Abedi explained that the French president was forced to say this to the public after the great intransigence during the previous period, as he was betting on military intervention.