Africa

US, France Fleeing to Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal After Being Ousted Across the Sahel

A Nigerien man holds a placard reading “Long Live Russia, Long Live Niger and Nigeriens” in the capital Niamey

On Thursday, the US State Department confirmed that it is meeting with Nigerien officials to discuss “an orderly and responsible withdrawal of US forces” from the country after Niger’s government requested that the US troops leave. It followed the expulsion of French troops following the coup in the country last year.The United States and France, having been kicked out of much of the African Sahel, including Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad, are fleeing to Côte d’Ivoire, aka the Ivory Coast, and Senegal which are among the few remaining places on the continent where French influence still holds significant sway.

“Côte d'Ivoire is sort of one of the two most important countries, with Senegal, where the French or what's called "Françafrique" is still very strong,” Koffi Kouakou, an Africa analyst and senior research fellow at the Center for Africa-China Studies at the University of Johannesburg, told Sputnik’s Fault Lines on Friday.

Françafrique was a term used by then Côte d’Ivoire Président Félix Houphouët-Boigny in 1955, who advocated a close relationship with France while ostensibly maintaining the country’s independence. It has since been used to describe other countries with a close relationship with France and eventually became a prerogative term to describe countries under French neo-colonialism.The withdrawal of US troops from Niger will take some time, as they have sensitive and expensive equipment there that they would not want to leave behind, especially with Russian forces taking over counterterrorism activities and training in the US absence. This has led to an awkward situation with US and Russian troops occupying the same air base, albeit in different sections of the compound.WorldRussian Forces in Separate Compound on Niger Base, No Access to US Forces3 May, 04:28 GMTLast year, the military leadership in Niger deposed President Mohamed Bazoum and installed a new government. Not long after, they demanded that French troops leave the region, which eventually happened after it became apparent that Bazoum would not return to power despite economic sanctions and saber-rattling from ECOWAS, an economic alliance in West Africa.That coup and expulsion of French troops followed similar stories in Mali and Burkina-Faso in the years prior. Then in March, the government of Chad requested that US troops leave bases in that country, a request that the US granted earlier this week. That brought the count of Sahel countries expelling Western forces to four in just the last few years.While US forces were allowed to remain in Niger for a time, it was always an uncomfortable relationship. “They never trusted the US would support [them],” Ibrahim Yahaya, deputy director for the Sahel Project at the International Crisis Group, told Al-Jazeera.Last week, Michael Langley, the commander of US Africa Command (AFRICOM) visited Côte d’Ivoire to “reaffirm” the US commitment to the country. Kouakou said that is where US forces are expected to end up next. “Very few people thought they were going to go there because Côte d’Ivoire is” an area where France holds sway, Kouakou explained, noting that the US submarine deal with Australia that reportedly angered French officials was likely making French officials feel “a little bit suspicious” of the US.“These are the two most important places, sort of the bastion, sort of outpost of French neo-colonialism that are now under attack” morally from the other Sahel countries that have expelled their former colonial rulers, Kouakou said. “Senegal and Cote d’Ivoire, and especially Cote d’Ivoire,” noting that Gabon and Cameroon are also important to France in the region.The United States has been in Niger since 2012, setting up bases there ostensibly to support the government’s fight against terrorism. The former Boko Haram was reportedly gaining steam there and in more recent years Daesh* and al-Qaeda branches have been established in the Sahel region.AnalysisUS Losing Footprint Across Africa as Niger, Chad Demand Military Forces Pullouts30 April, 03:57 GMTThe issue Niger and other countries had with the arraignment was that it severely limited their sovereignty according to Kouakou. “For example, all the activities taking place on the bases, coming and going… Niger is not aware of how many people are [in the bases], who’s coming in, what materials they’re moving in, and then the landing fees of the US aircraft are free, so they’re not paying taxes at all.”Since the US entered Niger in 2012, instances of terrorism in the Sahel exploded from less than 200 incidents in 2011 to more than 800 incidents in 2021.“French troops weren’t any help with [fighting terrorism],” international relations and security analyst Mark Sleboda told Fault Lines, “Or the Americans, it must be said.”* Also known as ISIS, ISIL, and the Islamic State, an internationally recognized terrorist group outlawed in Russia.

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