Niger junta revokes military deals with France
Niger’s military government has revoked a raft of military cooperation agreements with France on Thursday.
This decision could drastically reshape a fight against Islamist insurgents in the region after the ouster of President Mohamed Bazoum last week.
Like recent coups in neighbouring Burkina Faso and Mali, last week’s military takeover in Niger came amid a growing wave of anti-French sentiment with some locals accusing the former colonial ruler of interfering in their affairs.
France has between 1,000 and 1,500 troops in Niger, helping to fight an insurgency by groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State that has destabilised West Africa’s Sahel region.
A decision about the revocation of five military deals with France dating between 1977 and 2020 was read out on national television late on Thursday by junta representative, Amadou Abdramane.
Abdramane added that a diplomatic notice will be sent to France to that effect. There was no immediate response from France.
Niger’s regional and Western partners, including France, have imposed sweeping sanctions in an effort to pressure the coup leaders to restore constitutional order after Bazoum’s ouster – the seventh coup in West and Central Africa since 2020.
But junta leader Abdourahamane Tiani, the former head of Niger’s presidential guard, has said he will not back down.
Tiani has won the backing of fellow juntas in Mali and Burkina Faso and cited persistent insecurity as his main justification for seizing power, even though data on attacks in the country shows that security has actually been improving.
Ousted president Bazoum said in an opinion piece published Thursday in the Washington Post that he is a hostage and called on the international community to restore constitutional order.
“This coup, launched against my government by a faction in the military on July 26, has no justification whatsoever. If it succeeds, it will have devastating consequences for our country, our region and the entire world,” Bazoum wrote.
In a further sign of the junta’s resistance to one-time allies, Niger suspended broadcasts of French state-funded international news outlets France 24 and RFI earlier on Thursday – drawing condemnation from the French foreign ministry.
The move echoes similar post-coup crackdowns on French media by the juntas in Mali and Burkina Faso, who have also kicked out French troops, many of whom are now stationed in Niger.
On Thursday hundreds of protesters marched in the Nigerien capital Niamey to show their opposition to the foreign pressure on coup leaders. In addition to sanctions, the main regional bloc, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), has said it could authorise the use of force if soldiers did not restore Bazoum to power by Sunday.
One of the demonstrators in Niamey held a placard that said: “Long live Niger, Russia, Mali and Burkina. Down with France, ECOWAS, EU.” Others waved Russian flags as they gathered outside the National Assembly.
The junta is locked in a standoff with ECOWAS, which has taken its hardest stance yet on the coup as it struggles to contain a democratic backslide in West Africa, where it says coups will no longer be tolerated.
An ECOWAS delegation is in Niamey, hoping to secure “a conclusive and amicable resolution,” while the bloc’s defence chiefs have also been meeting this week to discuss a possible military response, which they have said would be a last resort.
On Thursday the junta said any aggression or attempted aggression by ECOWAS would be met with an immediate riposte without warning from Niger’s armed forces on any ECOWAS member-state except those friendly to Niger.
Mali and Burkina Faso have said they would treat an intervention in Niger as a “declaration of war” against them too, and would come to Niamey’s defence. Tiani sent a general to both countries on Wednesday to shore up support.
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