The Financial Times published an opinion article by the editor-in-chief of the French Le Monde newspaper, Sylvie Kauffmann, entitled “Lessons offered by the Niger coup to both the United States and France”.
In her article, Kauffmann says, don’t call what happened in Niger a military coup or a coup to seize power… it’s an unconstitutional attempt to seize power, and the military officers who arrested and removed the democratically elected president are neither putschists nor the military council, but rather a “group demanding power”.
She adds that the State Department’s extraordinary efforts to avoid correctly naming what happened on July 26 in Niger reflect the degree of embarrassment this new upheaval in sub-Saharan Africa has caused to Western strategic thinkers.
It also points to the differences in how the main Western security actors in the region, the French and the Americans, deal with the issue.
President Macron said of him a “completely illegal coup,” then entered into a long silence, while Washington and some African countries tried to enter into negotiations with the military, “the group that asserts control of power” in Niamey.
The situation in Niger remains unresolved after nearly a month has passed, which, according to the author, represents a painful blow to Western efforts to achieve stability in this part of Africa.
It also serves as a wake-up call regarding the evolving geopolitical reality of the continent, which has now attracted a large number of players.
Niger is the fourth country in West Africa, after Guinea, Mali and Burkina Faso, whose leader was overthrown in a military coup in the past three years.
Kauffmann believes that the coup may be the final nail in the coffin of French policy in West Africa.
After expelling France from Mali last year, French forces thought they had found a safe haven in neighboring Niger, led by the friendly President Mohamed Bazoum, but its new rulers are now asking Paris to withdraw its 1,500 troops.
Why bother Niger’s coup France?
The Russian factor represents another reason for French annoyance, as Macron learned the hard way how Vladimir Putin, who claims to know nothing about the role of Wagner’s mercenaries in Africa, uses this tool, in addition to campaigns to spread false information, to spread Moscow’s influence there.
For the Americans, who maintain 2 important military bases and 1,100 soldiers in Niger, the lesson is no less bitter.
The Biden administration now finds itself in a dilemma: Either it sticks to its stated democratic values, which make it difficult to maintain military bases in cooperation with the illegal military junta, or it decides that the security situation is deteriorating and withdraws its forces.
However, for now, it is hoping for a diplomatic solution that would allow its forces to remain in landlocked Niger in exchange for a pledge of some kind of democratic transition.
This explains the precaution taken not to call the coup a coup, to avoid having to cancel US security assistance.