French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna stated on Friday that France does not consider the “attempted” coup in Niger by military coupists and the subsequent sequestration of President Mohamed Bazoum as “definitive”. The Nigerien army pledged its support for the coupists on Thursday.
French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna declared on Friday, July 28, that France does not view the “attempted” coup in Niger, where coupist military officers have been holding President Mohamed Bazoum since Wednesday night, as “definitive”. The French Foreign Minister also mentioned the possibility of finding a way out of the situation.
President Emmanuel Macron has spoken several times, including on Friday morning, with his counterpart Mohamed Bazoum, whom “we demand the release of,” she reported to journalists during President Macron’s visit to Papua New Guinea.
The Nigerien president, “who is the democratically elected president,” “says that he is in good health and we not only wish for his release but also for him and his family to be released in complete safety as a prerequisite for the return to constitutional order,” urged the Minister.
In the capital city of Niamey, the Nigerien army pledged its support to the coupist military officers holding the Nigerien president since Wednesday night.
“Possibilities for resolution”
The coupists have accused France, which has 1,500 soldiers in Niger, of violating border closures by landing a military aircraft at Niamey International Airport. They have called for “strict adherence to the measures” taken by the junta once and for all.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has demanded the “immediate release of President Mohamed Bazoum, who remains the legitimate and legal president of Niger recognized by ECOWAS”.
According to the French Foreign Minister, “ECOWAS has explained itself very clearly,” and “it will hold a summit meeting probably on Sunday,” where “possible sanctions could be decided” – a course of action that France will support. She reiterated that Paris condemns “in the strongest terms the attempted coup d’état,” which “has no legitimacy”.
“If you hear me talk about an attempted coup d’état, it means that we do not consider things to be final,” Catherine Colonna declared, mentioning “possibilities for resolution if the leaders of this attempt heed the message of the international community”.
After Mali and Burkina Faso, Niger, previously an ally of Western countries, has become the third Sahel country – plagued by attacks from groups linked to ISIS and Al-Qaeda – to experience a coup since 2020.
Mali and Burkina Faso, in particular, have turned to Russia after demanding the departure of French soldiers from their territory.
“The military command of the Nigerien Armed Forces” has “decided to endorse the declaration of the Defense and Security Forces,” states a communiqué signed by the Chief of Staff, General Abdou Sidikou Issa, in order to “avoid a deadly confrontation between various forces”.
Closed borders, curfew
The coupist military officers have announced “the suspension until further notice of the activities of political parties” and have called for “calm among the population” following incidents during a demonstration in Niamey organized to show support for them, during which Russian flags were flown and anti-French slogans were chanted.
Youths looted the building of the headquarters of the Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS, in power), a few kilometers from the gathering, and set fire to cars parked in the lot, as witnessed by AFP journalists.
A demonstration also took place in Dosso, about a hundred kilometers from the capital city.
The coupist military officers announced on Wednesday night on national television that they had overthrown Mohamed Bazoum, who has been in power since 2021, citing “the continued deterioration of the security situation, poor economic and social governance”. The junta, composed of all branches of the army, gendarmerie, and police, has suspended the institutions, closed land and air borders, and imposed a curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. (9 p.m. to 4 a.m. GMT).
The coup has been strongly condemned by the international community. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres strongly condemned a coup that “only benefits terrorist groups,” and called it a “worrying trend” in the Sahel.
Russia has expressed its desire for the “swift release” of the Nigerien president, while Germany has called on the army to “return to their barracks”. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated that he had “clearly” assured Mohamed Bazoum of the support of the United States, which has around 1,100 soldiers in the country.
Niger is a privileged partner of France in the Sahel, and its history has been marked by coups since its independence from this former French colony in 1960.