Sky News Arabia: Why is France’s position different in the face of coups d’état in Niger and Gabon?

France has reacted differently to the “coups d’état” in Niger and Gabon. While it has condemned the coup in Gabon and called for respect for election results, Paris did not mobilize international and regional voices to oppose the coup or threaten intervention.

When asked about this, French President Emmanuel Macron stated that “the situation in Niger is very different from what is happening in Gabon,” without explaining the reasons for this difference.

It is worth noting that there have been no pro-coup demonstrations in Gabon denouncing French presence, unlike in Niger where protesters chanted “Down with France… Long live Russia”.

Different reactions to the coups

The coup in Niger took place on July 26, while the coup in Gabon occurred on August 30. Here is how Paris reacted to both countries in West Africa:

The French government spokesperson, Olivier Veran, announced that Paris “condemns the ongoing military coup” in Gabon and is closely monitoring the situation.

However, Paris did not demand the return of Gabonese President Ali Bongo, whereas they confirmed the return of Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum, whom Macron said he speaks with daily.

Paris did not use the harsh tone it used against the coup in Niger, where it demanded a return to constitutional order and supported the ECOWAS approach of using military force to reinstate Bazoum.

No economic sanctions were imposed on Gabon, unlike the swift imposition of sanctions on Niger.

Concerns regarding the Gabonese opposition

Political analysts speak to “Sky News Arabia” about their interpretations of the French policy divergence.

Charles Asigbo, a researcher specializing in West African affairs, believes that the difference in how France has reacted to the two coups is not a political analysis but rather a multi-faceted fact:

Paris is not afraid of the coup leaders in Gabon; they did not demand the withdrawal of its forces or threaten the interests of its mining and oil sectors, which receive preferential treatment.

The Gabonese opposition appears more dangerous to Paris’ interests than the coup leaders. They had already protested Macron’s visit in March, and the opposition leader referred to the coup as a “palace revolution” – suggesting that the president’s family orchestrated the coup to avoid opposition protests against their election victory and to regain power in a different way.

The situation in Niger is more threatening due to the possibility of the expansion of the Russian group “Wagner”. Military leaders in Niamey exert the most intense pressure to expel French forces and mobilize the population against Paris.

The health condition of Gabonese President Ali Bongo and the history of his family, which has ruled the country for 53 years, weaken France’s pressure on the coup leaders. How can Paris defend someone who suffered a stroke and inherited power from his father, which would be embarrassing for France?

International relations researcher Hani El-Gamal highlights a point that frustrates the political opposition in Gabon towards France. He states that France “has supported the Bongo family, which has controlled the reins of power for 53 years, and continued to support Bongo despite his stroke and absence from effective power, ignoring the opposition’s aspirations for change, as seen in the first attempted coup in 2019,” but this has not been successful.

Countries at risk

On the other hand, academic and French professor of international relations Frank Farnel warns of coups d’état in other countries in the central and western parts of the continent, which he describes as “fragile”.

Farnel specifically identifies countries like Cameroon, Congo-Brazzaville, Madagascar, and Chad, stating that some suffer from corruption and others have aging leaders who need to be closely monitored. He emphasizes the importance of the international community actively participating in initiatives that promote responsible governance, strengthen institutions, and foster development across the continent;

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