Paris– "Down with France and imperialism, long live Russia." A letter was written in capital capital Niamey in front of the French embassy in the Nigerien capital Niamey last Sunday, four days after the coup led by General Omar Abderrahmane Tiani against the country's president, Mohamed Bazoum.
This message reflects the difficult times that France's influence in Africa is experiencing, despite French President Emmanuel Macron's 18th African tour in 6 years last March, with the aim of filling the gaps created by anti-French sentiment and returning his country to win over Africans.
France's last stronghold appears to be under real threat, and questions revolve around it about the future of French concessions in the Sahel after the fall of its ally Bazoum.
Writer and political analyst Jean-Pierre Perrin said that he was not surprised by the reaction of the protesters in front of the embassy because, even if the Kremlin was not directly involved in the coup, France is always seen as a former colonizer who is scapegoated, even though the EU countries (Italy, Germany, etc.) have a strong military and financial presence in the country.
Speaking to Al Jazeera Net, Biran pointed out that Paris failed intelligence, because its intelligence did not expect all its means to rise putschists in a country where there are elements of the French army, this is worrying from an information point of view, and constitutes another slap in the Sahel region.
The political analyst pointed out that this failure caused 4 French failures, starting in Burkina Faso, Mali and the Central African Republic, which received Moscow and "Wagner" warmly, and finally Niger.
For his part, Benny Jerome, a military analyst and co-founder of the Strategic Think Tank on Security in the Sahel, believes that France has lost influence in its former colonies and that relations between Paris and the countries of the region are not ideal, especially with the presence of other powers in the region such as Russia, China, Turkey and others.
Speaking to Al Jazeera Net, Jerome added that France lacked the ability to predict what happened, and may have underestimated the matter as did the circle surrounding President Bazoum, despite its knowledge of the region, but the current events exceeded the capabilities of Paris intelligence, because the equation of the coast has become more complex over time.
"Cooperation with the ruling regime has not been sufficient to ensure stability and protect its vital interests. But again, Paris will assert that it exists to support an allied country, and that it is not its job to interfere in the internal affairs of this African country. The truth is that its interests today and those of the stability of the region are under great threat."
Internal and African divisions
The volatile situation in Niger politically and militarily, justified by political analyst Biran by the long time it took for generals and officers to discuss the appointment of the current head of the National Guard, which indicates an internal division in their ranks, he said.
"What initially appears as an insurgency is a little different from other scenarios, even if soldiers are always the ones seeking to seize power," Biran said. It is clear that the conflict between them is gradually growing, they are divided and stuck even in the way they deal with Paris."
"We must not forget that most of these soldiers studied in France, especially in military academies or military schools, which generates a kind of connection that they will not be able to easily overlook," he said.
On the other hand, Jerome pointed to the fragility of the Bazoum government, explaining that he was the apparent heir to former President Mohamed Youssoufou, and that he underestimated the attempt of some stalkers to destabilize him, which means that he was not autonomous, as the supporters of the former president are still present in the regime through his son who is also detained, according to information received earlier this week, and that the Chief of Staff of Bazoum was a figure close to President Youssoufou.
The ghost of a financial scenario
French forces were called in in January 2013 to intervene in Mali at the request of the then transitional authorities to halt the advance of jihadists in the country, who had deployed to the border area with Burkina Faso and Niger, before the French Ministry of the Armed Forces announced the final withdrawal of its forces early last year.
Although he does not rule out the situation spiraling out of control, Jerome does not believe that Niger will live in the same scenario as Mali, saying that the region is facing "a historic moment to redefine the present powers and the shape of relations between Africa and the international community, a struggle for influence similar to what we experienced a few decades ago during the Cold War."
When asked about Russia's policy of getting closer to the scene, the military analyst expressed his unbelief that the putschists wanted to overthrow Bazoum to get closer to Russia. If Moscow and the Wagner Group are given the opportunity to secure an anti-democratic regime that resulted from a coup, then it must be thought that ensuring movement towards transparent elections will be in jeopardy. That would be unfortunate for these emerging countries that gained independence only 60 years ago."
Niger's situation is different from Burkina Faso and Mali because jihadist groups remain under control there and have not carried out any deep incursions or major attacks recently. The Nigerien military also appears better able to deal with the jihadist insurgency.
The spokesman explained that the mission of the 1500,<> French soldiers in Niger territory is limited to helping the country's army confront jihadist movements and providing logistics and military training. In Mali, the French force was involved on the front lines, because the Malian army was not prepared to fight such battles.
Excluded military intervention
Mali and Burkina Faso entered the crisis line in Niger, warning in a joint statement on Monday against any military intervention in Niger, saying it would amount to "declaring war on their countries."
However, the Sahel expert ruled this out, saying that "France has no interest in intervening militarily because it will feed the anti-Sahel narrative inside the country".
In a joint statement between the Foreign Ministry and the armed forces on Monday, Paris stressed that it is committed to the security of diplomatic personnel and foreign residents under international law, in particular the Vienna Conventions, adding that "contrary to what some Nigerien military officials claim, the French security forces did not use any lethal means."
In a related context, Jerome pointed out that if it is necessary to intervene militarily in this country, it will be done at the level of the African Union with France remaining in the back rows, just like America, because "Paris must be careful about what it says and does, and if it wants to intervene to restore the constitutional rule of President Bazoum, it must strengthen the security aspect to protect the regime."
Political analyst Biran does not disagree with this view, as he considers that Paris now only expresses its support for the democratically elected government, noting that "even if France intervenes militarily, it will be done in joint cooperation with allies to monitor the situation in the future."
In the context of strong destabilization, the prospect of the withdrawal of French military forces from Niger will bring an era to an end, after France portrayed itself as an anti-jihadist policeman in the Sahel, making it inevitable that a change in its current strategy would be necessary.
According to Jerome, France must "redefine its security and military strategy in Niger, that is, after the Barkhane and Takuba operations, and take its share of responsibility because of its poor communication and lack of firmness enough to guarantee the so-called after-sales service."
Paris should think of a different Franco-African pattern "because when we see the EU pumping billions of euros in cooperation aid through infrastructure, development and budget support, it has become necessary to rethink the North-South cooperation programme," he said.
"There are those who will say that France has presented false hopes, while others see it as a slap in the face of the former colonial power that is losing its foothold, and is manipulated by other powers such as Russia in the process of leading a new front in the struggle against what they call anti-imperialism, which is a new form of colonialism, to replace France in any way and with hidden interests that we discover every day, and the peoples of the Sahel should beware of them," the military analyst added.