Niger has joined the list of West African countries where the military has taken control, following the examples of Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali, and Chad – all former French colonies. With 78% of sub-Saharan Africa’s coups occurring in Francophone states since 1990, some analysts question whether France, or the legacy of its colonial past, bears responsibility.
Coup leaders in these countries often blame France for their actions. Colonel Abdoulaye Maiga, the prime minister appointed by Mali’s military junta in 2022, launched a scathing attack on France, accusing it of “neocolonialist, condescending, paternalist, and vengeful policies.”
Resentment towards France is also evident in Burkina Faso, where the military government ended a longstanding accord allowing French troops in the country, leading to strained relations.
In Niger, allegations that President Mohamed Bazoum was a puppet for French interests were used to justify his removal from power, leading to the revocation of several military deals with France and popular protests.
France’s colonial history and its continued engagement in its former territories after independence contribute to the grievances. Many Francophone states in West Africa still use the CFA franc, pegged to the euro and guaranteed by France, as their currency, reflecting its economic influence.
Moreover, France forged defense agreements that allowed it to intervene militarily to support pro-French leaders, often seen as corrupt and abusive, to maintain stability.
Despite distancing itself from past practices, France continues to face criticism for its ties to Africa. Corruption allegations and perceived exploitation of African resources have fueled anti-French sentiment.
France’s ability to ensure order in the region has weakened, leaving it vulnerable to criticism. Its involvement in the fight against Islamist insurgencies has not resulted in regaining control of territories, leading some to view French support as a liability.
While France’s actions have certainly played a part in the current instability in Francophone states, other factors must also be considered. Insecurity, armed groups, and extremist threats undermine public confidence in civilian governments.
Each coup in recent years was driven by specific domestic factors, demonstrating the agency of African political and military leaders. The motives behind these coups were mixed, serving the interests of the military elite rather than promoting national sovereignty or the welfare of citizens.
As the trend of coups in Francophone states continues, the issue of external alliances is also evident. Some military governments seek new allies, including Russia, to replace previous connections. However, such global alliances may not benefit ordinary citizens but rather further enrich the political elite.
Reducing French influence may not be a panacea for political stability, as new challenges may arise in the future.