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French Influence Wanes in Africa: Is Macron’s Africa Policy Doomed?




As a series of coups rock African nations, questions are arising about the effectiveness of French President Emmanuel Macron’s ambitious vision for a new era of Franco-African relations.

Macron had pledged to break with the past and end the long-standing “Françafrique” era, characterized by cozy relationships with autocratic leaders.

However, recent events suggest that his Africa policy may be facing significant challenges.

The turmoil in Gabon, following similar upheavals in Niger, Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, and Chad over the past three years, is forcing a sober reassessment of France’s role in the continent. While Macron’s presidency began with promises of a fresh approach to Africa, observers argue that the reality has not matched the rhetoric.

Thierry Vircoulon, an analyst at the French Institute of International Relations, bluntly stated, “Macron’s Africa policy is dead.” This assessment comes as France grapples with the loss of several African allies during Macron’s tenure, raising concerns about the viability of its influence on the continent.

Michel Duclos, a former French ambassador and resident senior fellow at the Institut Montaigne think-tank, believes that it’s time for France to start anew.

He commented, “We won’t escape a re-evaluation of our policy. The problem isn’t to assess whether or not our strategy in Africa is a failure or not — we did what we could, we did our duty — but now we need to start from scratch and think.”

The recent coups highlight that France can no longer dictate the course of African affairs. Instead, the armies of these nations, often with popular support, are sidelining leaders whose connections to the West ran through Paris.

In each of the six countries that have witnessed coups in the past three years, France maintains significant economic, political, and security ties.

Also read: Tensions Escalate as French Ambassador to Niger Expelled

The revolts in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger were fueled, in part, by frustration with the French-led fight against jihadists in the Sahel, a conflict that has resulted in thousands of casualties and millions of displaced people.

As Paris embarks on a reevaluation of its approach to Africa, it must address the presence of thousands of French troops stationed on the continent. While this military presence once bolstered France’s influence, it has also bred mistrust among African nations.

“France’s declining influence in West Africa is a blow for these connections,” noted Duclos, reflecting on the changing dynamics of Franco-African relations.

Furthermore, France faces the challenge of determining its stance toward other Francophone allies in the region. These include autocrats who have ruled with an iron fist for decades and leaders like Ali Bongo of Gabon, who have taken over from their fathers.

Rahmane Idrissa, a political scientist at the African Studies Centre at the University of Leiden, criticized French policymakers for failing to adapt their Africa policy to the growing demand for genuine democracy in Francophone Africa.

He argued, “French decision makers didn’t really adapt their policy toward Africa, taking into consideration the thirst for genuine democracy in Francophone Africa. So in Central Africa, they kept supporting — or tolerating — those dictators, those despots.”

As France grapples with these challenges, the future of its Africa policy hangs in the balance. The events unfolding on the continent indicate that it is high time for France to reassess its approach, redefine its role, and forge a new path in its engagement with Africa.

Whether Macron’s vision for a transformed relationship with the continent can be realized remains to be seen, but one thing is clear: the status quo is no longer tenable.

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Burkina Faso’s Military Junta Foils Attempted Coup Amid Ongoing Instability



Burkina Faso’s military junta announced its successful thwarting of an attempted coup this week, once again highlighting the nation’s precarious stability in the face of an ongoing Islamist insurgency.

The fragile transitional government, led by Colonel Ibrahim Traore, found itself targeted by a group of military officers and their cohorts seeking to plunge the country into chaos.

Government spokesman Jean Emmanuel Ouedraogo released a statement late Wednesday, confirming the arrest of the individuals behind the plot, while asserting that those still at large were actively being pursued.

Traore, who took power a year ago after overthrowing Interim President Henri Paul Sandaogo Damiba, has been on edge due to the persistent specter of coups.

To address security concerns, Traore recently appointed new heads of the security services, including the National Intelligence Agency, following the arrest of several army officers accused of plotting against the state.

Ouedraogo reassured the public that a thorough investigation would be conducted to shed light on this latest attempted coup.

This incident in Burkina Faso underscores the troubling trend of military leaders seizing power in African nations, with Niger and Gabon experiencing similar developments in the past two years.

The West African nation remains at a critical juncture, teetering between democracy and instability as it grapples with internal and external threats.

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French Ambassador Departs Niger Amid Escalating Tensions: Macron’s Pledge to Withdraw Troops Looms



Emmanuel Macron

Ambassador Sylvain Itte, along with six colleagues, left Niger’s capital, Niamey, on a flight bound for Paris via Chad.

This departure comes three days after French President Emmanuel Macron confirmed the withdrawal of the French envoy and pledged to withdraw approximately 1,500 French troops stationed in Niger by the end of 2023.

The abrupt exit of Ambassador Itte, as reported by Agence France-Presse, occurred at around 4 a.m. on Wednesday and followed the deterioration of relations between Niger’s military leaders and their former colonial power, France.

The strained relations were primarily triggered by the ousting of President Mohamed Bazoum in a coup on July 26, a coup that led to the severance of military ties between the two nations.

Macron’s initial refusal to adhere to the August 28 deadline set by the junta for Ambassador Itte’s departure only served to heighten the diplomatic standoff.

The junta had cited alleged French “actions contrary to Niger’s interests” as the reason for the ambassador’s expulsion.

In the latest development, the coup leaders formally requested a timeline for the withdrawal of French troops from Niger. Macron had previously confirmed his commitment to completing the withdrawal by the end of 2023, further emphasizing the changing dynamics of the Franco-Nigerien relationship.

On Wednesday, President Macron engaged in talks with Nigerien Foreign Minister Hassoumi Massaoudou, during which he reaffirmed France’s support for President Bazoum and expressed his country’s eagerness to see a return to constitutional order in Niger.

This statement from the Elysee underscores France’s continued involvement in Niger’s internal affairs despite the recent diplomatic tensions.

As both nations navigate these turbulent waters, the future of their diplomatic and military relations remains uncertain.

The departure of Ambassador Itte is just the latest chapter in this evolving saga, and it raises questions about the implications for France’s historical ties to its former colony and its broader strategic interests in the West African region.

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G-20 Grants African Union Equal Membership Status to EU




The Group of 20 nations has reached a consensus to confer permanent membership status upon the African Union.

This significant move is aimed at empowering the African continent with a stronger voice in addressing pressing global issues, including climate change and emerging-market debt.

The announcement was made by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who served as the host of the G-20 summit held in New Delhi over a two-day period.

During this historic event, President Azali Assoumani of Comoros, who currently holds the presidency of the African Union, was warmly embraced by Prime Minister Modi and offered a seat at the summit table.

This strategic decision, which has been previously reported by Bloomberg News, grants the 55-member African Union the same prestigious status enjoyed by the European Union within the Group of 20.

European Council President Charles Michel expressed his delight regarding this development in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

He expressed eagerness for close cooperation between the African Union and the European Union within the framework of the G-20, solidifying the commitment to address global challenges collectively.

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