The Platform

Photo illustration by John Lyman

Mali and Niger, in a significant geopolitical shift, have nullified two foundational treaties with France that governed collaborative efforts and administrative support on tax matters. The dissolution of a 1972 agreement designed to establish reciprocal assistance in tax regulation and prevent double taxation is emblematic of a broader disengagement. The second accord, parallel in its objectives, has met a similar fate.

“The persistent hostile attitude of France against our states added to the unbalanced character of these agreements causing a considerable shortfall for Mali and Niger,” articulated the joint statement.

In an extension of this diplomatic unraveling, Niger has unilaterally terminated its military agreement with the European Union. The ruling military junta has thus revoked the country’s commitment to a military partnership with the bloc, effectively halting an EU program previously sanctioned.

The EUCAP Sahel Niger civilian mission, inaugurated in 2012, aimed to empower local security forces in their struggle against militants and other security challenges. Stationed permanently are about 120 Europeans, whose roles included the training of Nigerien security personnel and the enhancement of governance practices in the region.

Simultaneously, the Russian Ministry of Defense has initiated overtures towards Niger to fortify defense relations. A high-level meeting occurred on December 3 between Niger’s Defense Minister Salifou Modi and a Russian delegation, marking an unprecedented ministerial visit post-coup in Niger.

Yunus-bek Yevkurov led the Russian delegation, which was hosted by General Abdourahamane Tiani, head of Niger’s military government. As reported by Nigerien officials, this meeting resulted in the signing of agreements aimed at bolstering military cooperation between Niger and the Russian Federation.

As relations with Western nations falter, Nigeria, currently presiding over the regional coalition ECOWAS, has issued a call for the Nigerien junta to release the detained former President Mohamed Bazoum, advocating for his transfer to a third country. Following the July coup that ousted Bazoum, ECOWAS imposed sanctions on Niger, now contingent upon Bazoum’s release to a third country for further discourse on the potential lifting of sanctions. ECOWAS has expressed its ongoing willingness to engage with the junta.

Notwithstanding regional advocacy, Niger’s military leadership has resisted releasing Bazoum, although they have conceded to shortening the transitional government phase, albeit without specifying the extent of this reduction.

Furthermore, the Niger junta has repealed a key law aimed at mitigating migration to Europe. The repudiated statute had effectively curtailed the transit of migrants through Niger, a move that, while reducing the influx to Europe, was met with opposition from desert communities for whom migrant traffic is economically vital.

This sequence of events underscores a growing estrangement among West African nations from their former colonizer, France. The cancellation of treaties, the reconfiguration of military alliances, and the newfound openness to Russian support reflect a critical reassessment of the region’s geopolitical affiliations.

In a preceding analysis titled “Macron Fails – French Ambassador and Troops to be Withdrawn from Niger,” I addressed the waning influence of France in Niger and its implication for West African geopolitics. This current diplomatic retreat from former strongholds — Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso — is not just a blow to French prestige but a signal of a new era for the citizens of Niger, poised to embrace sovereignty free from the shadows of colonial dominion and exploitation.

Osborn Baya is a political, and policy analyst with a keen focus on African governance and affairs and international relations.