Niger’s military regime accused France of deploying forces in several West African countries with a view to military intervention.
Relations with France, Niger’s former colonial power, degraded swiftly after Paris stood by ousted President Mohamed Bazoum following the July coup.
“It should be brought to the attention of the public opinion, national and international, that despite the announcement of this withdrawal plan, France continues to deploy its forces in several ECOWAS (ed, Economic Community of West African States) countries as part of preparations for an aggression against Niger, which it is planning in collaboration with this community organisation,” accused Colonel Major Amadou Abdramane, Niger’s regime spokesman.
The Sahel state is also embroiled in a stand-off with the West African bloc ECOWAS, which has threatened to intervene militarily if diplomatic pressure to return Bazoum to office fails.
On August 3, Niger’s coup leaders renounced several military cooperation agreements with France, which has about 1,500 soldiers stationed in the country as part of a wider fight against jihadism.
On Sunday, President Macron reiterated France’s stance, demanding the release of President Bazoum.
He emphasised that the redeployment of troops would only occur upon request from the deposed head of state.
“Since last July, a coup d’état has been holding a democratically elected president hostage. France’s position is simple: we condemn it, we call for the release of President Bazoum and the restoration of constitutional order, and we do not recognise the legitimacy of the putschists’ declarations, since President Bazoum has not relinquished power.
And so, if we redeploy anything, I would only do so at President Bazoum’s request and in coordination with him, not with officials who today are taking a president hostage.
On this subject, from day one, France has been coordinating with all the presidents of the region and the heads of state and government, and we fully support the positions of Ecowas,” clarified French President Emmanuel Macron.
On Tuesday, a Paris defence ministry source told French media LeMonde, the French army was in talks with the military regime over withdrawing elements of its presence in Niger.