The President of Niger, Mohamed Bazoum, concluded his visit to Chad on Wednesday where, in front of Mahamat Déby, he simply relayed the words of French President Emmanuel Macron.
On Wednesday, French President Emmanuel Macron, during a speech addressed to the army of his country, considered the withdrawal of Barkhane from Mali – which he says he himself “decided” – was legitimate. He, in return, described the Malian government as “illegitimate”. And promised the end of the withdrawal of French forces from Mali before the end of the summer.
Macron also announced that France "will continue its commitment against terrorism in Africa, after Barkhane, differently but resolutely". Its objectives would be for French forces to be “less exposed” and to maintain “more intimate relations with African armies”.
These "African armies", specifies Macron, are currently limited to that of Niger. The country, according to the French head of state, will be an “anchor point”. A vocabulary which, in normal times, would have provoked the ire of a sovereign country. This time, the French president can count on the complacency of a Bazoum who is always ready to help France.
The same day, Niger's President Mohamed Bazoum was on his second day of his second visit to Chad since Mahamat Déby's coup. The two presidents seem determined to support, and to be supported, by Paris.
The fall of the G5 Sahel
The Chadian head of state, Mahamat Déby, said he regretted Mali's withdrawal from the G5 Sahel. “We are still optimistic, we hope that Mali will reconsider the decision it took. Because the fight against terrorism is a noble fight, but it is also a fight that a country cannot do alone”, explains the military leader.
As for Bazoum, he seems aware of the fact that "the G5 Sahel was not a model for the success of its objectives, neither economically nor even in terms of security". As a reminder, Mali withdrew from this military alliance, also bringing together Mauritania and Burkina Faso, mainly in order to avoid French tutelage.
But precisely, this Thursday in Paris, at the time of the commemoration of the taking of the Bastille, the French army parade. An army that the French economist Charles Gave considers weakened, since it would have, according to him, barely more than “two days of ammunition”.
Precisely, in Niger, new "anchor point" of Barkhane, the French military presence, although exclusive, will be much lower than that which was in Mali. Paris will be satisfied with a thousand soldiers, three planes, six drones and four to six helicopters. A presence that does not exceed one-fifth of the Chadian army's strike force, for example.
And precisely, Bazoum affirms to AFP that he is “discussing with Paris to redefine the redeployment”. So, contrary to what one might think, it is Niger that requires an increased French presence. A detail that is clearly not on Macron's agenda.
And for a few less soldiers
Indeed, Emmanuel Macron, for his part, specifies that the French deployment will be revised downwards. “War is returning, fully, cruelly, to European soil. We see that we have to reassess our ambition,” said the French president. He then moderates: "Not to do less, I assure you, but to sometimes redirect our forecasts, to know how to learn all the lessons from this new context, and to be able to program the next few years".
To sum up, Emmanuel Macron spoke well of “moderating French military ambitions”. Which only means one thing for African states counting on Paris to solve their security crises: they will get less aid than they hope for.
And in a very clear symbolism, among the countries invited to parade this July 14 alongside the French troops, there are great absentees. Already, no African country has been invited. But even in the West, the first partners of France within the framework of Barkhane or Takuba, were also absent. In particular Germany, Sweden, Italy, Belgium and Portugal.
So if Bazoum still dreams of being cajoled by Paris for the remaining three years of his mandate, his ambitions do not seem to be reciprocated. Mahamat Déby, he seems more pragmatic. "Chad is a sovereign country, it is not up to a senator who does not even know how to place Chad on a map and pushed by lobbying, who will guide us or tell us what to do with our country", he said. he commented on the pressures of the American Senate on N'Djamena.
Which, given the context of the press briefing, seems more directed towards Paris. A relationship of "I love you, me neither" which is reminiscent of that of his father Idriss Déby with France.
The bad, the weak… and the ugly
Bazoum has been widely criticized by the opposition, which believes that his comments in Chad, vis-à-vis cooperation with France, lacked firmness.
Indeed, the President of Niger declared: “Between President Mahamat Idriss Déby and me, there is a very fluid relationship, and if we have advice to give, I am sure that we will not do without it. ". “Countries like Niger will be called upon to contribute some of the lessons they have learned from their experiences,” assures Bazoum.
Nevertheless, Bazoum has been targeted by two coup attempts since he became president. Niger is today the country with the lowest human development index (HDI) in the world. But it is also landlocked between the three most violent regions in Africa: northern Nigeria and the Chad Basin, the "three-border zone" and the Libyan Sahara.
What advice can Bazoum give? How to avoid being overthrown after two days of his inauguration or how to become the country where terrorism is the deadliest in the world (according to the Global Terrorism Index 2022)?
Bazoum still played a big role in normalizing the coup in Chad. Especially when he has intimate relations with Mahamat Déby, while attacking Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea. But also, he was the only G5 Sahel leader to break the line, going to Paris for the last G5 Sahel summit, while his African counterparts were content with virtual participation.
In any case, it is now a long time ago when Idriss Déby accused France of having unilaterally organized the constitutional revision in Chad. Or, more recently, when Bazoum dozed off in the middle of Macron's speech at the African Union-European Union Summit.