Niger: junta says France seeks military intervention

A general view of billowing smoke as supporters of the Nigerien defence and security forces attack the headquarters of the Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS), the party of overthrown President Mohamed Bazoum, in Niamey on July 27, 2023. The head of Niger's armed forces on July 27, 2023 said he endorsed a declaration by troops who overnight announced they had taken power after detaining the country's elected president, Mohamed Bazoum. "The military command of the Nigerien armed forces... has decided to subscribe to the declaration by the defence and security forces... in order to avoid a deadly confrontation between the various forces," said a statement signed by armed forces chief General Abdou Sidikou Issa. (Photo by AFP) (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)

The Niger military junta, which carried out a coup last week to assume power, assured this Monday (07.31.2023) that the ousted government, through its Foreign Minister, had authorized France to carry out armed attacks to try to free President Mohamed Bazoum, detained by the coup plotters, and restore him to his functions.

“In its search for ways and means to intervene militarily in Niger, France – with the complicity of some Nigeriens – held a meeting with the Chief of Staff of the Niger National Guard to obtain the necessary political and military authorization” to carry out an attack, said Colonel Amadou Abdramane, one of the coup leaders, reading a statement on television.

According to their statements, the authorization for such attacks was signed by the internationally recognized Nigerian Foreign Minister Hassoumi Massoudou, acting as prime minister. France, Niger’s former colonial power, had condemned the coup and called for the reinstatement of the democratically elected president, but had not announced any intention to intervene militarily in the African country.

Strong anti-French sentiment

On Sunday, however, French President Emmanuel Macron warned of “immediate” action if French citizens or interests were attacked in Niger, after thousands of Nigeriens demonstrated outside the European country’s embassy. Anti-French sentiment in some former African colonies is running high as the continent becomes a diplomatic battleground, with growing Russian and Chinese influence.

The military junta, which seized control of the country after blocking access to the presidential palace where Bazoum is located, had warned against any international attempt to rescue the president, saying it would lead to bloodshed and chaos for Niger.

After the coup, General Abdourahamane Tiani, leader of the presidential guard, proclaimed himself the new leader of the country. Tiani justified the coup by the “deterioration of the security situation” in Niger, ravaged by the violence of jihadist groups such as the Islamic State and Al Qaeda.