Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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The collapsing US military & economic empire is making Washington & NATO even more dangerous. US could not beat the Taliban but thinks it can take on China-Russia-Iran...a sign of psychopathology for sure. @BruceKGagnon

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Protests in Niger demand that French soldiers leave their country

A man holds a placard reading 'Clear off criminal French army' as people demonstrate against French military presence in Niger on September 18, 2022 in Niamey.  French forces first intervened in the Sahel's jihadist emergency in 2013, sending troops to support Malian forces fighting a regional insurgency. It widened the effort a year later with Operation Barkhane, eventually deploying some 5,100 troops, warplanes and drones in former colonies Chad, Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. (Photo by Boureima HAMA / AFP)



Thousands of French troops are being stationed in Africa's Sahel region on the pretext of fighting terrorism. However, over the past years, the French presence has become more and more unpopular among Africans.

On September 18, Nigeriens filled the streets of the country's capital city Niamey, protesting against French troops deployed in their country.

The protesters reportedly marched from Toumo Square to the National Assembly. They were organized by the M62 movement, a group of NGOs which reportedly describes itself as "peaceful" and committed to "the dignity and sovereignty of the Nigerien people."

Some of the protesters were carrying Russian flags, while others held banners saying “criminal French army - get out” and “The colonial army of Barkhane must go".

“There are anti-French slogans because we demand the immediate departure of the Barkhane force in Niger, which is alienating our sovereignty and which is destabilizing the Sahel“, Seydou Abdoulaye, the coordinator of the M62 Movement, told AFP.

For 10 years French troops have been located in Mali for the implementation of so-called Operation Barkhane, which is aimed, according to French officials, at fighting terrorism in the Sahel.

In August French troops left the country, wrapping up the withdrawal process they started in December 2021.

"This day at 1.00 p.m. (1300GMT), the last detachment of the Barkhane force present on Malian soil crossed the border between Mali and Niger," the French Ministry of the Armed Forces stated in a press release.

At the same time, the end of the operation in Mali was accompanied by Mali's accusation of France supporting terrorists inside the African country.

On August 15, Malian Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop in a letter to the United Nations Security Council stated that the French had repeatedly invaded Malian airspace, using drones, Casa C-295 and Airbus A400M cargo aircraft, Mirage 2000 strike aircraft and Chinook transport helicopters.

"The government of Mali has several pieces of evidence that these flagrant violations of Malian airspace were used by France to collect intelligence for the benefit of terrorist groups operating in the Sahel and to drop arms and ammunition on them,” the letter says.

In recent months, several anti-French demonstrations have taken place in the Sahel.

On May 14, 2022, young natives of Mali demonstrated in support of their country's army whose leaders were said to be adopting a strategy that contradicted French interests.

The next day, students in Chad protested against the presence of French troops in the country, accusing French of stealing its natural resources, and reportedly chanting “Chad is Free and France is out.”

In November 2021 protestors in Burkina Faso and Niger blocked and stoned a large French military supply convoy travelling from Ivory Coast to Mali.

After pulling its last soldiers out of Mali, French Minister of the Armed Forces Sebastien Lecornu said that despite the withdrawal of its forces from Mali, France's presence in the Sahel and "reinforced cooperation with the countries of the area, e.g., Niger" will continue.

In April, Nigerien MPs voted overwhelmingly in favor of a text authorizing the deployment of foreign forces on the territory, in particular French, to "fight terrorists."

Hassoumi Massoudou, Niger's Minister of Foreign Affairs, stated that his country wanted "an increase in the intervention of our partners," because "with the departure of French forces from northern Mali, we expect greater pressure from terrorists on our country."

On their part, Nigerien NGOs describe the presence of foreign soldiers as "occupying forces", "a threat to the country's sovereignty" and accused them of an "active support" for "jihadists who spread terrorism from Mali," AFP reports. 


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