Niger junta accuses ousted government of authorising French military attack


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The junta that seized power in Niger last week has accused the ousted government of authorising a French military operation to rescue deposed president Mohamed Bazoum.

Speaking on state television, a spokesman for the military government said Bazoum’s foreign minister Hassoumi Massoudou had signed a document authorising the French to attack the presidential palace. It offered no proof.

France has demanded the reinstatement of Bazoum, regarded as the west’s staunchest ally in the troubled Sahel region, and warned that it would take unspecified action if French personnel or property were harmed.

Thousands of pro-junta demonstrators surrounded the French embassy in Niamey, the capital of Niger, on Sunday, chanting pro-Russia slogans such as “Long Live Putin”.

“France reiterates that the only legitimate authority in Niger is president Mohamed Bazoum and democratically elected institutions,” the French foreign ministry said on Monday. “Our priority is the safety of our citizens and our interests, which cannot be the target of violence, in line with international law. We have no other objective than that.”

French president Emmanuel Macron, right, with now ousted Niger leader Mohamed Bazoum earlier this year © Christian Liewig/Corbis/Getty Images

The foreign ministry did not comment further on whether French forces had been authorised to carry out strikes. A person with knowledge of France’s thinking said Paris was unlikely to take action without US involvement.

France has 1,500 troops in the country and a base with attack drones and fighter jets, while the US has 1,100 troops on the ground and two drone bases.

Alex Vines, head of the Africa programme at Chatham House think-tank, said France and the US would “tread very carefully” given the level of anti-French and anti-western sentiment in the Sahel. A military response from the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) was more likely, he said. Ecowas on Sunday threatened force if Niger’s junta did not restore civilian power within seven days.

“This is where the junta in Niamey may have miscalculated. They may have assumed a weak Ecowas response just like in Mali and Burkina Faso,” Vines said, referring to the bloc’s inability to reverse coups in either of Niger’s neighbours. “But Ecowas has drawn a line in the sand. Defence planners have been tasked to plan an intervention — it’s not bluff.”

Vines said Bola Tinubu, Nigeria’s new president and now chair of Ecowas, was determined to turn the bloc into a pro-democracy force. “Tinubu is allergic to putschists,” he said, referring to the Nigerian president’s detention in the 1990s under dictator Sani Abacha. “He doesn’t like military dictatorships at all. This is a different Nigerian administration emerging.”

Ecowas has also threatened to cut off Niger’s electricity, much of which is supplied from Nigeria, and to impose sanctions on members of the junta and their families as well as civil servants who co-operate with the new regime. “This is unprecedented,” said one person close to Bazoum.

The ousted leader remains trapped in his residence, but a photo showing him smiling alongside Mahamat Idriss Déby, Chad’s president, who travelled to Niamey on behalf of Ecowas to try to broker a deal, has been released by Déby’s office.

People in close contact with Bazoum say he has not given up on returning to power.

Bazoum’s supporters hope to exploit divisions within the armed forces, not all of whom are behind Abdourahmane Tchiani, the former head of the presidential guard, who declared himself president on Friday. General Salifou Mody, ex-chief of staff of the armed forces and now Tchiani’s deputy, is thought to have more support.

The junta has continued to step up anti-French rhetoric. It announced it was suspending the export of uranium to France with immediate effect. Niger is the world’s seventh-largest producer of Uranium and France, which relies on nuclear energy for 75 per cent of its power, is a significant importer.

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Lisa Holden
Lisa Holden
Lisa Holden is a news writer for LinkDaddy News. She writes health, sport, tech, and more. Some of her favorite topics include the latest trends in fitness and wellness, the best ways to use technology to improve your life, and the latest developments in medical research.

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