The Niger Coup has raised questions about the role of French colonialism in West Africa, as it has been responsible for 78% of the 27 coups in this region since 1990. This is due to the fact that all these countries have been former colonies of France, and the military has come to power in Niger as well.
In September 2022, Colonel Abdoulaye Maga appointed Colonel Abdoulaye Maga as the Prime Minister of the country, accusing France of stabbing Mali in the back and following a policy of neo-colonialism. Anti-French ideas are also flourishing in Burkina Faso, where the military government cancelled an important long-standing agreement with France, allowing the French army to remain in Burkina Faso. However, in February this year, the French army was ordered to leave the country within a month.
Niger, a neighbouring country of Burkina Faso and Mali, has seen the removal of President Mohamed Bazoom from power, leading to the cancellation of five important military agreements with France. This has led to resentment among the people, who believe that France has been interfering heavily in the politics and economy of its former colonies. Seven out of nine former colonies still use the AFA French currency, which is guaranteed by France.
France has also made many such agreements here, through which it keeps unpopular but French-supporting leaders in power in its former colonies. By doing so, France has supported corrupt leaders many times, including former President of Chad Idris Déby and former President of Burkina Faso Blaise Campor.
The relations between the leaders of France and their allies in Africa have often been based on the foundation of corruption, creating a powerful wealthy class at the expense of the African people. François-Xabier Vershaw, a noted French economist, gave a name to the policies of France in Africa – Franco-Africa, which refers to the secret criminal links of the upper class of French politics and economists with the former colonies in Africa. This has led to the manipulation of money and the distancing of governments from this Franco-African policy.
In recent years, the efforts of the Western world, including France, to establish peace in Africa have failed, increasing criticism of France’s business interests in France and Africa. Despite the military and economic support of France, the steps of growing Islamic extremism in West Africa have not been stopped. The leaders of Burkina Faso and Mali realized that their citizens were becoming victims of extremism, leading them to feel that the support of France was becoming a problem.
However, France cannot be blamed for every trouble in the region. The Franco-African legacy in the former French colonies in West Africa is fading, and the United Nations reports that the unprecedented level of insecurity in the region has led to the loss of faith in civil governments. The events of the coup in Mali included the infiltration of extremist forces following the fall of the Libyan government in 2011, allegations of fraud in local elections against the president, and anti-government protests in the capital.
At the recent Russia-Africa summit in Saint-Petersburg, leaders from Burkina Faso to Mali expressed their support for the attack on Ukraine, along with Vladimir Putin. As before, the beneficiaries of global alliances are more likely to be the political elite than the general public.
According to some reports, in May, troops from the Wagner faction were accused of torturing and massacring hundreds of civilians in an operation to suppress an insurgency in Mali in collaboration with the Putin government. In such a situation, the reduction of French influence in Africa is not directly a boon for political stability. In the coming decades, we will see a new generation of military leaders trying to justify new incidents of coup by talking about reducing Russian influence.