In a further escalation of the international crisis in Niger, military leaders have ordered the French ambassador Sylvain Itte to depart the country within 48 hours as relations between the west African country and its former colonial ruler deteriorated further.
This comes in the wake of a coup that deposed the democratically elected president, plunging the West African nation into political turmoil.
The military government in Niger has not only expelled the French ambassador but has also authorized troops from neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso to come to its defense. This move raises the stakes in the standoff with other West African nations that are threatening force to reinstate Niger’s democratically elected president.
The decision to order the French ambassador’s departure was communicated through a letter that accused him of ignoring an invitation for a meeting with the foreign ministry. The letter, dated Friday, also cited “actions of the French government contrary to the interests of Niger” as one of the reasons for his expulsion.
However, France’s foreign ministry has made it clear that Niger’s military government has no authority to ask their ambassador to leave. They insist that the ambassador’s approval comes solely from the legitimate elected Nigerien authorities. This declaration highlights the tense relationship between the two nations in the midst of the political crisis.
Niger, a former French colony, has been a key partner of France in the fight against armed groups. However, recent coups in the region have sparked a wave of anti-French sentiment, with locals accusing the European country of interfering in their affairs. This sentiment has added to the complexity of the situation and further strained the relationship between France and Niger.
French President Emmanuel Macron has not minced his words when it comes to his criticism of Niger’s coup-makers. He has sharply condemned their actions and demanded the release of the deposed President Mohamed Bazoum.
Macron’s strong stance reflects France’s commitment to supporting democratic processes and its unwillingness to tolerate political instability in its former colonies.
Late on Thursday, a delegation from Burkina Faso and Mali met with General Abdrahmane Tchiani, the military leader of Niger. Following their meeting, General Tchiani signed two executive orders granting authorization for the security forces of Burkina Faso and Mali to intervene on Niger territory in the event of aggression. Oumarou Ibrahim Sidi, a military official, confirmed this announcement.
Details regarding the extent of military support from Burkina Faso and Mali were not disclosed. However, both countries have previously stated that any use of force by the West African bloc ECOWAS against Niger’s military government would be considered an act of war against their own nations.
This agreement is just one in a series of actions taken by Niger’s mutinous soldiers as they defy sanctions and solidify their control over the country’s military leadership. They have expressed intentions to rule for up to three years, further exacerbating the crisis that has unfolded since last month’s coup in this nation of more than 25 million people.
‘Still on the table’: The Unwavering Stand Against Coup D’etats in Niger
Niger, situated in the Sahel region below the Sahara Desert, was long regarded as one of the few democratic countries in the area that Western nations could rely on to combat the increasing violence perpetuated by armed groups. However, recent events have cast a dark shadow over the nation’s democratic progress.
The Economic Community of West African States, a regional bloc, has taken a firm stance against the military coup that ousted President Mohamed Bazoum. While a three-year transition plan has been proposed, the ECOWAS commission president, Omar Alieu Touray, affirmed on Friday that the bloc’s threat to use force to reinstate Bazoum is “still on the table.” This adamance is a clear indication that ECOWAS leaders refuse to accept another coup in their region.
Of the 15 countries within the ECOWAS, 11 – excluding the military-led countries of Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea, and Niger itself – have expressed their commitment to deploying troops to restore democracy in Niger once a decision to intervene is made. This collective support highlights the unity and determination of ECOWAS member states to uphold democratic principles and prevent the proliferation of coup d’etats in the region.
President Touray emphasized the urgent need for the military in Niger to reconsider its actions and heed the voice of reason. He stated, “Even now, it is not too late for the military to reassess its course of action and understand that regional leaders will not tolerate a coup d’etat.” This unwavering position demonstrates the determination of the community to halt the alarming frequency of coup d’etats occurring within the region.
The ECOWAS commission president also stressed that the real issue at hand is not only the immediate restoration of democratic governance in Niger but also the broader objective of eradicating the spiral of coup d’etats in the Sahel region.
The continuous threat of armed groups and the subsequent instability they engender require a concerted effort by both regional and international actors in order to maintain peace and achieve long-term stability.