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Niger: France increasingly isolated in Sahel as it prepares for withdrawal

Nigeriens participates in a march in support of General Abdourahmane Tiani, in Niamey. 30/07/2023   -  
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Sam Mednick/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.


Following Sunday's announcement that it will withdraw its troops from Niger, France appears increasingly isolated on the continent.

On Sunday, French President Emmanuel Macron announced the withdrawal of the 1500 French troops from Niger by the end of 2023, as well as the immediate departure of the French ambassador to the country. 

The decision comes in the wake of months of anti-French sentiment in Niger, France's last ally in the Sahel, following July's coup which ousted President Mohamed Bazoum. 

France has already been forced to withdraw from both Mali and Burkina Faso. Its withdrawal from Niger will come as a blow; the country had been central to French military intervention against the region's jihadists. 

France had had a military presence in the region for a decade. However, following his election in 2017, Macron had attempted to change tack, calling for a less militaristic approach in Africa and instead one focused on improving relations with civil society. 

Yet, the French president has also faced criticism for perceived inconsistencies in the Sahel. 

While France has condemned the coup in Niger, it previously accommodated the first putsch in Mali in 2020, and in 2021 endorsed Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno, who came to power in Chad without a constitutional process.

Despite still having bases in a number of West African countries, France's influence on the continent appears to be waning. 

For researcher Fahiraman Rodrigue Koné, from the Institut des études de sécurité (ISS), ""France failed to pull out at the right time and wanted to continue playing the leading role in a context where the sociological environment has changed significantly".

Now, as the security situation in the region deteriorates, France will face a major logistical challenge if it is to pull out its troops from Niger in the next three months.

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