The Nigerien military officers who overthrew elected president Mohamed Bazoum accused Paris of wanting to “militarily intervene” to reinstate him in office, according to a statement read on national television on Monday. France has cited the security of its citizens as its justification.
Tensions continue to escalate between Paris and the Nigerien military officers who overthrew elected president Mohamed Bazoum. The coup leaders accused France on Monday, July 31, of “wanting to militarily intervene,” following a summit of West African neighbors of Niger threatening to use “force” if Bazoum is not reinstated in his functions by Sunday. The French Foreign Ministry, on the other hand, affirmed that it has “no other objective” than the “security” of French citizens and businesses.
Pressure on the coup leaders, who took power on July 26, to restore “constitutional order” is increasing, coming from all Western and African partners of Niger, a crucial country in the fight against jihadist groups that have been devastating the Sahel region for years.
France and the United States respectively have deployed 1,500 and 1,100 soldiers in Niger who are involved in the anti-jihadist fight.
On Monday, they accused the former colonial power of wanting to “militarily intervene” and of having used tear gas against pro-junta protesters in front of the embassy of the former colonial power on Sunday.
“In its conduct, leaning towards finding ways and means to militarily intervene in Niger, France, with the complicity of some Nigeriens, held a meeting at the Niger National Guard headquarters to obtain the necessary political and military authorizations” to reinstate Mohamed Bazoum, stated a statement from the coup leaders.
In another statement, the coup leaders accused “security services” from a “Western chancellery,” without specifying which one, of having fired tear gas on Sunday in Niamey at protesters supporting the coup, “resulting in six injured, who were taken care of by the hospitals” in the capital.
The security of French citizens in Niger
France has no “other objective” than the security of its citizens in Niger, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs indicated on Monday, July 31. “Our priority is the security of our citizens and our establishments, which should not be subjected to violence, in accordance with international law. We have no other objective than that,” the Quai d’Orsay said in a statement to Reuters.
French President Emmanuel Macron had threatened on Sunday to respond “immediately and uncompromisingly” to any attack against French nationals and interests in Niger, where thousands of pro-military coup demonstrators targeted the French embassy in Niamey. Some tried to enter, before being dispersed by tear gas grenades.
Moscow calls for a return to “legality”
West African countries on Sunday set a one-week ultimatum for the military coup leaders in Niger to achieve a “complete return to constitutional order,” asserting that they do not exclude the “use of force” if this is not the case.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) also decided to “suspend all commercial and financial transactions” between its member states and Niger, and to freeze the assets of military officials involved in the attempted coup.
France welcomed “the decisions made by the heads of state” of ECOWAS gathered in Abuja.
Even before the Abuja summit, the coup military officers led by General Abdourahamane Tiani, head of the presidential guard behind the coup, had denounced them in advance, seeing them as “an imminent military intervention in Niamey in collaboration with non-member African countries and some Western countries.”
The European Union (EU) warned on Monday, July 31, that it would hold the coup leaders “responsible for any attack against civilians, and diplomatic personnel or facilities,” according to its chief diplomat, Josep Borrell. It will “quickly and resolutely support” the decisions of ECOWAS.
The EU supports all measures adopted by @ecowas_cedeao in response to the coup d’etat in #Niger and will quickly and resolutely provide support.
It is important that the will of the Nigerien people, as expressed through the ballots, be respected.https://t.co/4MGecrv4T2
— Josep Borrell Fontelles (@JosepBorrellF) July 31, 2023
Germany announced on Monday that it was suspending its development aid and budget support.
Russia, whose pro-coup protesters are waving flags in Niamey, called on the same day for a “speedy restoration of legality in the country” and “restraint by all parties.”
Niger, with a population of 20 million, is one of the poorest countries in the world, despite its uranium resources.
The sanctions imposed by ECOWAS “will hit our country very hard,” said Nigerien Prime Minister Ouhoumoudou Mahamadou on Sunday, July 30, to .
Chadian leader Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno, whose country is not part of ECOWAS but is a neighboring country of Niger and a military power in the Sahel region aligned with France, participated in the Abuja summit.
He then traveled to Niamey to “see what he can contribute to the resolution of the crisis,” according to Ndjamena. He was able to meet with Mohamed Bazoum, who has been held in his presidential residence since July 26, and with General Tiani.
After Mali and Burkina Faso, Niger, plagued by attacks from groups linked to the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda, is the third country in the region to undergo a coup since 2020.