French President Emmanuel Macron has declared that France is ready to support any efforts, including military intervention, made by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to restore constitutional order in Niger.
Niger, a former French colony and a key ally in the fight against Islamist militants in the Sahel region, has been plunged into a political crisis since a military coup on August 3 ousted President Mohamed Bazoum, who was elected in February. The coup leader, General Abdourahamane Tiani, has refused to step down and restore civilian rule, despite pressure from ECOWAS and the international community.
ECOWAS, a regional bloc of 15 countries, has threatened to impose sanctions and deploy a standby military force on the borders of Niger if the junta does not comply with its ultimatum to reinstate Bazoum by August 31. ECOWAS has also suspended Niger from its decision-making bodies and closed its land and air borders with the country.
“France is set to support any efforts, including military intervention, made by ECOWAS to restore constitutional order in Niger,” Macron said, according to a statement from his office. “The future of Niger and the stability of the entire region are at stake.”
France has about 5,000 troops stationed in the Sahel as part of its anti-terrorism operation Barkhane, which cooperates with Niger’s army and other regional forces. France has also provided economic and humanitarian aid to Niger, which is one of the poorest countries in the world and faces multiple security and development challenges.
However, France’s role in the region has also faced criticism and resentment from some segments of the population, who accuse it of meddling in their internal affairs and failing to protect them from violence. Macron has announced plans to reduce France’s military presence in the Sahel and reorient its cooperation with its African partners.