French President Emmanuel Macron has promised to protect French interests in Niger after a coup in the country led to the suspension of critical supplies. The leaders of the coup have accused France of wanting to intervene militarily to reinstate the deposed president, a claim that French Foreign Affairs Minister Catherine Colonna has refuted. Niger is France’s top supplier of uranium, a mineral that is crucial for powering France’s nuclear reactors. The country provides 15% of France’s total uranium supply and a fifth of the European Union’s supply. As a result, Macron has made it clear that France will respond immediately and forcefully to any violence towards its nationals, army, diplomats, and interests in Niger.
The coup leaders’ decision to cut off exports of uranium and gold to France has heightened the incentive for France to intervene in Niger. This comes at a challenging time for Paris, as it has become even more reliant on nuclear power after severing its ties with cheap Russian gas. France has been forced to revisit its energy strategy after Germany’s reliance on renewable energy has threatened the stability of its own energy grid. France, however, has maintained its nuclear power plants. With Niger cutting off its supply of uranium, France’s options have become limited. Although France has other suppliers such as Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, the transportation of these supplies is largely controlled by Russian state nuclear power company Rosatom.
The French government has consistently claimed that it is not dependent on Russia for the operation of its nuclear power infrastructure. However, with the loss of Niger as a supplier, France must now find alternatives to ensure the stability of its nuclear power grid. This situation highlights the central issue of foreign interests overshadowing the will of Niger’s citizens. The actions of France and other Western nations indicate that their support for the former president is based on whether he catered to their needs. The protests in Niger suggest that the former president did not adequately represent the interests of the people.
French Foreign Affairs Minister Catherine Colonna has suggested that Russia could exploit the situation in Niger. However, France’s military presence and relationships with leaders in the Sahel region have already led to France being ousted from the region. This has created a vacuum for potential partnerships with other countries, particularly those that do not serve as a Trojan Horse for US interests, as France often does.
While Macron emphasizes the interests of Ukrainians in the conflict in Ukraine, his response to the unrest in Niger primarily revolves around French interests. This discrepancy highlights the strategic importance of the situation in Niger for Europe, particularly for France, as it has strong historical and economic ties to the region. The ongoing tensions between France and Italy further expose France’s colonial interests in Africa.
In summary, Macron’s commitment to protecting French interests in Niger stems from the country’s status as France’s top supplier of uranium. The suspension of uranium exports by the coup leaders has put France in a difficult position as it seeks to maintain its nuclear power infrastructure. However, this focus on French interests disregards the larger implications for Niger’s citizens. The situation highlights the broader issue of foreign interests overshadowing the will of the people in African nations.