Niamey, Niger —
Niger’s military junta on Sunday (10/9) accused France of deploying troops in several West African countries as part of preparations for a possible joint military intervention with the ECOWAS bloc in Niger.
In a communiqué read on state television Saturday evening (9/9), Niger’s military junta repeated its call for French troops to leave its territory, which has become a major source of tension between the two countries that were once allies following the overthrow of President Mohamed Bazoum on July 26.
The statement called on “national and international opinion to bear witness to the consequences of France’s aggressive, deceitful and insulting behavior.”
Relations between Niger and its former colonial power, France, have deteriorated since France declared the military junta illegitimate.
Amid a wave of anti-French sentiment, the coup leaders in Niger also followed the strategy of juntas in neighboring countries – namely Mali and Burkina Faso – in seeking to end long-standing military ties with France in the fight against Islamist insurgencies across the region.
When asked about the military junta’s latest comments, French President Emmanuel Macron said, “We do not recognize any legitimacy regarding the statements of the coup plotters.”
Regarding the approximately 1,500 French troops stationed in Niger, Macron said any decision regarding their deployment would only be made in coordination with Bazoum. “If we move troops, I will do it only at the request of President Bazoum,” Macron stressed at a press conference at the close of the G20 summit in New Delhi on Sunday.
Macron did not directly address accusations that France had deployed troops elsewhere in West Africa as part of a proposal to use force as a last resort to restore democracy in Niger.
The ECOWAS bloc has imposed sanctions on Niger and activated alert powers for possible military intervention, although talks to find a diplomatic solution are ongoing.
Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, who serves as ECOWAS chairman, said a nine-month transition back to civilian rule in Niger could satisfy regional powers. However, the military junta previously proposed a period of three years. (em/hour)