Niger junta accuses France of troop deployment for attack with Ecowas
Leaders of coup repeat call for departure of foreign soldiers from its territory
Niamey/New Delhi — Niger’s junta accused France on Sunday of deploying troops in several West African countries in preparation for a military intervention with the regional bloc Ecowas in Niger.
In a communique read on state television overnight, the junta repeated its call for the departure of French troops from its territory — a major source of tension between the one-time allies since the July 26 overthrow of president Mohamed Bazoum.
The statement appealed to “national and international opinion to witness the consequences of this aggressive, underhanded and contemptuous attitude adopted by France”.
Relations between Niger and its former coloniser France have soured since Paris declared the junta illegitimate. Amid a wave of anti-French sentiment, the coup’s leaders followed the strategy of juntas in neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso in seeking to end long-standing military ties with France in the regionwide fight against Islamist insurgencies.
Asked about the junta’s latest comments, French President Emmanuel Macron said “we do not recognise any legitimacy in the statements of the putschists”.
Regarding the 1,500 French troops stationed in Niger, Macron said any decision on their deployment would be made only in co-ordination with Bazoum.
“If we ever redeploy ... I would do so only at the request of president Bazoum,” Macron told a news conference at the close of a two-day summit of G20 leaders in India.
He did not directly address the allegation that France is deploying troops elsewhere in West Africa as part of a regional proposal to use force as a last resort to restore democracy.
The main regional bloc Ecowas has slapped sanctions on Niger and activated a standby force for the possible military intervention, though talks are ongoing to find a diplomatic solution.
Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu, who holds Ecowas’ revolving chairship, has suggested that a nine-month transition back to civilian rule could satisfy regional powers. Niger’s junta has previously proposed a three-year timeline.
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