“There is no more Françafrique.” Emmanuel Macron turned a new page in the French presence in Africa on Sunday evening. During his speech on France 2, the Head of State announced, in addition to the repatriation of the French ambassador - the regime resulting from the coup d'état had requested his departure, which Emmanuel Macron had initially refused - “the end of the French military presence in Niger”. The withdrawal of 1,500 French soldiers “will be organized in the coming weeks,” said the President of the Republic, estimating that “we are not here [...] to be hostages of the putschists.”
This departure announced “by the end of the year” marks an end to the French military presence throughout the Sahel. This was deployed from 2013 as part of Operation Serval, then Barkhane in 2014, at the request of the Sahelian states themselves faced with the jihadist threat. At the height of Operation Barkhane, France had some 5,100 soldiers responsible for containing the terrorist threat in a vast area like Europe.
Ten years later, a feeling of failure has set in, since the terrorist threat, instead of disappearing, has increased. Under popular and official pressure, France withdrew its forces from Mali on August 15, 2022, from the Central African Republic on December 15 of the same year, and more recently from Burkina Faso on February 25.
France can now have five bases still active on the continent.
Also read Gabon, Sahel: what is really left of Françafrique today?
This strong tricolor military presence in French-speaking Africa is inherited from the era of decolonization, in the 1960s. During the various declarations of independence, France signed cultural, technical and technical cooperation agreements with most of its former colonies. military, but also defense agreements which allowed African heads of state to call on military assistance from France.
In Niger, the withdrawal operation promises to be logistically complex. It is now a matter of disengaging an air base where Mirage 2000s and Reaper drones are stationed, but also the entire command and support structure. It will also be necessary to remove vehicles such as VABs and Griffons. In Mali, it took six months to withdraw from the huge Gao base.