"Niger Coup: Is France Responsible for Instability in West Africa?"


Niger has become the latest country in West Africa where the military has taken control, following Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali, and Chad, all of which are former French colonies. Since 1990, a striking 78% of the 27 coups in sub-Saharan Africa have occurred in Francophone states, leading some observers to question whether France, or the legacy of French colonialism, is responsible.

Many of the coup leaders certainly want people to believe so. Colonel Abdoulaye Maiga, who was appointed prime minister by the military junta in Mali in September 2022, launched a scathing attack on France. He criticized France for its “neocolonialist, condescending, paternalist, and vengeful policies,” alleging that France had betrayed universal moral values and betrayed Mali.

Anti-French sentiment has also been on the rise in Burkina Faso, where the military government terminated a long-standing agreement that allowed French troops to operate in the country in February, giving France one month to withdraw its forces.

In Niger, which shares borders with both countries, allegations that President Mohamed Bazoum was a puppet for French interests were used to justify his removal from power. Since then, the junta led by Gen Abdourahmane Tchiani has revoked five military agreements with France. These actions have led to popular protests and attacks on the French embassy.

The historical record supports these grievances to some extent. French colonial rule established political systems aimed at extracting valuable resources while using repressive methods to maintain control. Although British colonial rule shared some similarities, France’s continued involvement in the politics and economics of its former colonies after independence was more pronounced, according to critics.

Seven of the nine Francophone states in West Africa still use the CFA franc, which is pegged to the euro and guaranteed by France, as their currency. This is a legacy of French economic policy towards its colonies. Additionally, France has established defense agreements that have led to its regular intervention in the region.

Piers Potter


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