Niger at the center of a new cold war

Niger at the center of a new cold war

Washington, Rome and Berlin are negotiating with the junta to be able to stay in the country.

Paris is not happy. Not happy at all to see that its American, Italian and even German allies continue to negotiate with the Nigerien military junta while French troops have been unceremoniously asked to leave this former colony.

A bad mood perceptible even in the aisles of the European Commission where the dispute between Paris, Berlin and Rome does not go unnoticed, especially since the European Union is still calling for a return to constitutional order in Niamey, pleading the cause of the deposed president Mohamed Bazoum, while maintaining minimal cooperation in the country.

Niger: One coup d'état too many for the Sahel region

German pragmatism

The German and Italian position is primarily pragmatic. The German Defense Minister, Boris Pistorius, explained, during a conference on security in the Sahel last March, that it was not necessary to “make democratic conditions a precondition of our commitment”before continuing “When bridges are broken, it becomes difficult to rebuild them.”

So far, Berlin has around a hundred soldiers in Niger to help train the national army. Germany is negotiating to retain approximately 50 troops to provide security at a military airfield in Niamey.

Italian ambition

Italy, for its part, managed to double its contingent on site, increasing it from 250 to 500 soldiers. Objective: participate in the training of certain Nigerien troops. To achieve this, Italy sent a delegation from defense, intelligence and foreign affairs to negotiate with members of the junta. Beyond this military effort, Rome above all hopes to gradually resume discussions on migration issues with the new authorities who repealed a law against migrant traffickers in November 2023. Niger has in fact always been a route for sub-Saharan migrants who take the Libyan route to reach Europe and therefore the Italian coasts.

Faced with French anger, Italy explains to anyone who will listen that its approach allows the European Union to keep “a foot in the country and in the Sahel” and avoids abandoning all the ground to the Russians. An explanation which does not calm Paris who speaks, off the record, of “Italian treason” and of “compromise” with the putschists.

Niger: Unlike France, the United States wants to stay

American determination

An Italian approach shared by the United States, determined to try to keep its military base in Agadez, in the north of the country. A base where most of the contingent made up of 1,100 soldiers is stationed serving an impressive fleet of drones which monitor Libya and the Sahel. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Molly Phee was sent to Niamey March 12-14. A mission that ended in failure. The new Nigerien authorities denounced the agreement that had bound them to Washington since 2012. In the process, a “popular” demonstration against the American military presence in Niger took place in Niamey on April 13. Another demonstration is planned for this Sunday, April 21. During the first protest march, members of the National Council for the Safeguarding of the Homeland (CNSP), the junta government, were clearly visible in the front row.

Niger welcomes its Russian military instructors

Washington intends to continue negotiating with the Nigerien authorities and for the moment refuses to give up ground to Moscow.

Russian deployment

The Nigerien authorities have not definitively closed the door to the Americans but they welcomed on April 10, a delegation of around a hundred men from the Africa Corps, a new – more presentable – avatar of the Wagner militia. Mission: train the local army but also, as is the case in the Central African Republic, protect President Abdourahamane Tiani.

The arrival of the Russians was accompanied by a deafening silence, everyone seeking to avoid offending the Nigerien authorities by remembering the fate of the French troops.

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