After Mali, Burkina Faso and the Central African Republic, France is being forced to withdraw troops from yet another former African colony that pivoted to Russia after souring on Paris: Niger.
Faced with growing anti-French sentiment since a military takeover in Niger in July, French President Emmanuel Macron has announced plans to bring home 1,500 counter-terrorism troops, along with France’s ambassador to Niamey.
The pullout will be the fourth in under two years by the French, who still have bases in a handful of African countries.
Here is a short summary of the three other routs:
– Mali –
Nearly a decade after French troops were hailed as liberators in northern Mali for helping government forces drive out al-Qaeda-affiliated jihadists, France pulled out of Mali in 2022 after a bitter row with the country’s military leadership.
Relations soured following back-to-back coups in 2020 and 2021 and growing hostility towards France from the Malian public, which accused France’s regional counter-terrorism operation of failing to stop jihadists pushing into the centre of the country.
Bamako’s junta leaders struck up a partnership with the Moscow-linked mercenary group Wagner instead and Mali became one of Russia’s rare defenders on the global stage following its invasion of Ukraine.
– Central African Republic –
French troops were also deployed in recent years in the Central African Republic, helping keep the peace after a fierce bout of inter-communal bloodshed in 2013.
But there too, French troops were forced to leave after the president called in Wagner to quell a rebellion and France became the victims of a disinformation campaign allegedly whipped up by Moscow.
The last troops from France’s Operation Sangaris left in December 2022.
– Burkina Faso –
In January 2023, the junta that had come to power in a coup in Burkina Faso in September 2022 — the second coup in nine months — gave the 400 French special forces stationed there a month to leave the country.
Like Mali and Central African Republic, the small French contingent, which had been powerless to stop a devastating jihadist insurgency, had become increasingly unpopular among the public.
Burkina has since held talks with Russia on developing military cooperation.