“They did exactly the opposite of what we thought they would do,” a French diplomat told the newspaper.
The military coup in Niger has been a major point of contention for France in its relations with the US, whose Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland, sat down at the dialogue table with the coup leaders on August 7, reports Le Figaro.
Washington’s diplomatic involvement in the situation around the African country since the start of the crisis did not sit well with Paris, which took a clear and unhesitating line on the matter, being firm on the need to restore the ousted president to his post. Mohamed Bazoum.
Nuland’s negotiations with members of the Nigerien military junta have been “too hard a blow,” a French diplomatic source told the newspaper. The arrival in Niger of the US ambassador Kathleen Fitzgibbon, whose appointment was validated on July 27, 2023, one day after the military coup, after the position had been vacant for a year and a half, did not help either, since for Paris it represented “almost a official recognition” of the board, he added.
“They did the exact opposite of what we thought they would do,” the diplomat said. “For Emmanuel Macron, it was at stake the credibility of Franceespecially in terms of the discourse on democracy. For Americans, while also concerned about a quick return to constitutional order, the priority is stability in the region“, he explained.
Now Paris fears that Washington, motivated by a desire to keep your foundations in Niamey and Agadez above anything else, can reach an agreement with the coup plotters in Niger behind the back of the French government. The diplomat believes that the US will soon set aside the demands related to democracy to “draw a line in the return to constitutional legality” in order to “preserve its foundations.”
- In total, Niger hosts some 1,300 US troops throughout the country. Its presence is key in the Sahelo-Saharan strip: only the Agadez airfield allows US drones to take off and deploy their surveillance network to Libya.
Washington, convinced that it had an important advantage by having “its man” among the coup plotters, General Barmou, trained in the US and who had maintained a close relationship with the North American country, did not seem to receive signs of goodwill. on his behalf, reports Le Figaro, which points out that it was with this soldier that Nuland spoke with during his visit to Niger.
France as a scapegoat
While both the US and France maintain relatively similar numbers of troops in the Sahel, much of the animosity towards the presence of foreign forces is directed specifically against the European nation, which because of its colonial past has become a sort of scapegoat blamed for economic and security failures.
The difference in treatment was noted when the Nigerien military junta did not question the defense agreements with the Americans, despite the repeated appeals of the population, which urged from the streets for the withdrawal of “all foreign forces from Niger “.
“The United States, like our other allies, has a habit of letting us take the hits”summed up the French diplomat, also implying that Paris has nothing to expect from the new leaders of the African country.
The US is not the only country that has distanced itself from the French line in Niger. So far, Germany, Belgium and Italy have not questioned the legitimacy of the demands of the Nigerien military authorities, especially when they demand the departure of the French troops.
“Germany needs Niger to guarantee the withdrawal of its troops from Mali. As for Italy, which also has a military presence in the country, it is more concerned with stability at all costs, to avoid a new migration crisis. In their eyes , Niger is essentially one of the locks of the sub-Saharan migration corridors,” says Le Figaro.