France, which has intervened since the first day of the coup, continues to support the return of President Mohamed Bazoum to power.
Relations with France, Niger’s former colonial power, deteriorated rapidly after Paris sided with ousted President Mohamed Bazoum following the July coup.
Accusations of french military intervention
Leaders of the coup in Niger have accused France of deploying military forces, equipment, and materials in several neighboring countries with the intention of “military intervention.” Colonel Amadou Abdel Rahman, the spokesperson for Niger’s transitional government, stated that France continues to deploy its forces in several West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) countries as part of preparations for an invasion of Niger, in cooperation with this regional organization.
France is collaborating with the ECOWAS countries (Economic Community of West African States) to return President Mohamed Bazoum to power. This group, led by Nigeria, has threatened military intervention in Niger if diplomatic pressures fail to reinstate Bazoum as president.
Abdel Rahman stated in his statement: “France has deployed military aircraft, helicopters, and 40 armored vehicles in Ivory Coast and Benin. Military cargo planes have unloaded large quantities of military materials and equipment in Senegal, Ivory Coast, and Benin, to name a few.”
Macron justifies military presence in Niger
French President Emmanuel Macron, during a press conference following the G20 summit in New Delhi, stated that he would not directly respond to the “military council’s claims.” However, he added, “If we undertake any redeployment, I will do so only at the request and in coordination with President Bazoum, not with officials who are currently holding the president hostage.” Macron emphasized France’s “full” support for ECOWAS’s stance, which has stated that it is considering military intervention as an option to reinstate Bazoum as president.
In the latest sign of growing animosity toward France among coup supporters, hundreds of protesters set up tents in front of a French military base in Niger’s capital, Niamey, for a week to demand the departure of Parisian forces.
Despite the military council being in power since July 26, Paris has not reversed its position on the military council, insisting that it is “illegitimate.” This stance has fueled anti-French sentiment in the country.
It is worth noting that approximately 1,500 French soldiers are deployed in Niger across three military bases as part of a wide-ranging campaign against terrorist groups operating in the Sahel region.
Niger holds significant importance for the French, particularly after the withdrawal of French troops from Mali in 2020, following the coup there, and subsequently from Burkina Faso last year. This has impacted France’s influence in the region.
Niger has witnessed protests against France, with coup leaders participating. Protesters burned the French flag and attacked the French embassy in Niger.
Since Bazoum’s ousting, the military council in Niger has leveraged anti-French sentiments among the population. They have called for the French ambassador and French forces to leave, while the military council has resisted regional and international pressure to reinstate the president.
Analysts assert that the most likely scenario between Niger and France is that France will withdraw its forces, as it has done in the Central African Republic, Mali, and Burkina Faso. Niger is a sovereign state, and Paris has no option other than to exit and withdraw its forces, as all Vienna conventions and agreements acknowledge the sovereignty of nations and their right to make internal decisions based on their interests, without external orders or directives from any foreign power.