Anti-French Sentiment and Growing Oppositions in Sahel

Anti-French Sentiment and Growing Oppositions in Sahel
French colonialism in Africa led to anti-French sentiments among colonized peoples, particularly during periods of conflict between the French and various African states. Over the years, this sentiment has growingly increased, leading to tensions in different parts of Africa.

One of the recent instances of such tensions is the French forces facing violent protests after crossing into Niger from Burkina Faso in November 2021. France, the former colonial power in the Sahel, has about 5100 troops deployed across the region, as reported by Arab News (2021). It is claimed that the presence of the troops in the region aims to help and support countries where governments are weak with poorly equipped armed forces (France24, 2021).

The first interventions of the French military go back to 2013 aimed at beating back a Jihadist insurgency in Northern Mali. However, the rebels regrouped and spilled into Burkina Faso and Niger, which are two of the poorest countries in the world, after two years. There were reports of village massacres, roadside bombs, and abuses claiming the lives of thousands of civilians and forcing over a million people to flee their homes (France24, 2021).

However, the involvement of French military in the region is still facing oppositions which are increasingly growing and spreading all over the Sahel, from the urban centers into the villages and all rural areas. The same sentiment led to troubles for a French military convoy heading to Mali, which resulted in several deaths and injuries (France24, 2021). The angry protestors in Burkina Faso and Niger blocked the passage of a large French military supply convoy that was traveling from Ivory Coast to Mali. According to Reuters (2021), there were at least two deaths and 18 injuries due to the clashes between the two groups.

Some claim that the convoy was in fact carrying out weapons for Jihadists (France24, 2021). This may have worsened the conditions as experts say that the conditions show the spread of anti-French sentiment across the Sahel region, while there are complicated reasons behind it. This is not new, and anti-French sentiment has long been prevalent on social media in Mali, with periodic protests against the French’s military presence in the country (Arab News, 2021).

It is difficult to measure the scope and scale of this sentiment, which has imposed itself on the Sahel political space, forcing governments to respond. These oppositions and the resulting unrest are worrying and need prompt consideration because of turning people against those on the front line (Arab News, 2021).

As it is evident and reported by carious media, anger about France’s military presence in its former colonies is increasingly rising in Niger, Burkina Faso, and other countries in West Africa’s Sahel region, in which France has thousands of troops to fight against terrorism. As much as these tensions continue, the use of military force seems inevitable, which will certainly lead to the loss of lives on both sides. The loss of lives and injuries are only part of the consequences of these unrests. Other consequences include the closure of schools across the country to prevent possible unrest, cutting mobile internet under legal provisions associated with national defense and public security (Aljazeera, 2021), all of which threaten the rights of individuals and necessitate taking serious and prompt measures.

Aljazeera (2021)
Arab News (2021)
France24 (2021).
Reuters (2021).