France has just accepted aid worth several million euros to Niger. A way for Paris to thank Mohamed Bazoum for his unwavering support?
For several months, he has become the messenger of France. In half-words - and even sometimes in a more frank way - Niger's President Mohamed Bazoum alternately criticized the inability of the Malian junta to obtain effective results in terms of security and the coups d'etat. Bazoum also did not hesitate to deplore the ineffectiveness of Wagner's paramilitaries.
A line that resembles that of Paris. It must be said that, last July, President Bazoum affirmed that he was "discussing with Paris to redefine the redeployment" of the French military, after the announcement of Barkhane's withdrawal from Mali.
Bazoum then posed as a defender of the French presence in Africa. “I am totally sorry for the campaign that is being waged against them. I want the French to be strong, because they have, with this space in the Sahel, a unique history,” even indicated the Nigerian president who assured that he was "sure that the day the French will pack up in Gao, it will be chaos".
In these troubled times in the relationship between Paris and African states, Bazoum's outings were well worth a reward. According to Africa Intelligence, the French Treasury “has just validated a new budgetary aid of 15 million euros in favor of Niamey”. At the same time, the daily continues, Paris is strengthening its military presence in the country.
In addition to an increased military presence on the spot, France has also advanced its pawns at the diplomatic level, by designating last September one of Emmanuel Macron's "Mr. Africa", Sylvain Itté, as French ambassador to Niger. The former special envoy for public diplomacy in Africa at the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs has multiplied meetings with civil society, in particular he discussed twice with representatives of the Council of Nigeriens in France.
Objective: to avoid that, as in Mali or Burkina Faso, anti-French sentiment is too present. Recently, Emmanuel Macron asked his diplomats to become the spearheads of the fight against Russian influence. The "narrative, Russian, Chinese or Turkish" makes France appear as "a country which is doing neocolonization and which is installing its army on (the) African soil", lamented then the french president.
Problem: in Africa, Paris is effectively losing its influence. And Emmanuel Macron's support can now be counted on the fingers of one hand. In addition to Chad, Paris therefore wants to bet on Niger. And Bazoum seems to be the best ally of the French head of state.
While a demonstration was taking place in the streets of Niamey in mid-September, to denounce the presence in Niger of the French force Barkhane expelled from Mali, the Nigerien president had put pressure on the demonstrators by threatening political opponents and organizations of society. civilian arrests.