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Niger and Burkina Faso withdraw from regional military bloc, saying it serves French interests

NIGER and Burkina Faso announced their withdrawal from the G5 military bloc of west African states today.

The two countries follow the example of Mali, which like them is governed by a military junta opposed to French colonial influence in the Sahel region. Mali left the G5 last year.

The bloc was set up in 2014 alongside France’s announcement of Operation Barkhane, a military mission tasked with battling Islamist terrorist groups that spread across the region following Nato’s war against Libya. 

Consisting of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger, the G5 contributed soldiers to a joint task force, from 2020 under unified command with the French military. 

The group acted to legitimise France’s long military presence, issuing statements calling for France to keep its troops in the area to combat Islamist forces, though these were never suppressed.

Niger and Burkina Faso issued a joint statement today saying that remaining in the alliance was not compatible with their “independence and dignity” as states.

“The G5 Sahel cannot serve foreign interests to the detriments of our people, and even less the dictates of any power in the name of a partnership that treats them like children, denying the sovereignty of our peoples,” the statement said, in a reference to France.

The coups in the region have seen French troops withdraw from Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, with huge street protests condemning the former coloniser’s continuing economic domination, expressed through French firms’ control of industries such as uranium mining and use of the West African franc, which requires user countries to deposit at least half their foreign assets with the French Treasury. 

The resulting collapse of French influence has been described by former French prime minister Dominique de Villepin as a blow to French interests as significant as the independence movement that swept French West Africa (a colonial federation including all the G5 member states, as well as Senegal, Guinea, Ivory Coast and Benin) from 1956.

In August, 94 French senators wrote an open letter to President Emmanuel Macron accusing him of allowing France’s “disappearance” from the continent.

Another attempted coup in the region, in Guinea-Bissau, has been foiled, its President Umaro Sissoco Embalo said on Saturday.

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