Niger junta calls out France
The West African nation of Niger has accused former colonial power France of plotting military intervention to reinstate the government of ousted leader Mohamed Bazoum, who was removed from power in a military coup on June 26.
In a statement on national television, a spokesman for the ruling junta, Colonel Amadou Abdramane, claimed that France was deploying forces to other West African countries as “part of preparations for an aggression against Niger” and that military cargo aircraft were unloading supplies and equipment in Senegal, Ivory Coast, and Benin.
Paris, for its part, did not respond to claims that it had deployed troops elsewhere in the region but said it backed the position of ECOWAS, an economic bloc of West African states, that has threatened to use force to reinstate Niger’s ousted leader, elected in the country's first free polls in 2021.
The coup has galvanized anti-French sentiment in Niger, and the junta has demanded France withdraw the 1,500 soldiers it maintains in the country. The United States, meanwhile, also has about 1,100 soldiers in Niger and has begun to relocate its troops “as a precaution” from Niamey to the central city of Agadez.
Both France and the US maintained a military presence as a bulwark against Islamic insurgents, who have terrorized other nations in the Sahel region, and there’s growing concern that withdrawal of Western forces could create a power vacuum Islamists would rush to fill. What's more, the Russian mercenary group known as Wagner is also looking to gain more of a foothold in Niger and other West African states.
For more on the Wagner Group's aims in Africa, see our explainer here.