France has issued a stern warning to any potential attackers on its nationals or interests in Niger, following a military coup that ousted President Mohamed Bazoum last week. The former colonial power in Niger has also cut off all development aid to the West African nation and called for the restoration of democracy.
Thousands of pro-junta protesters demonstrated in front of the French Embassy in Niamey on Sunday, some of them vandalizing the building and burning the French flag. They accused France of meddling in Niger’s internal affairs and supporting the deposed president.
“President will not tolerate any attack against France and its interests,” said Macron’s office in a statement, specifying that it would respond to attacks against French diplomats, armed forces or businesses. Macron has spoken with Bazoum and former president Mahamadou Issoufou in the last few hours, the statement said, adding that both of them condemned the coup and called for calm.
Niger has been a security partner of France and the United States, which have used it as a base to fight a Muslim insurgency in West and Central Africa’s wider Sahel region. France has about 5,000 troops deployed across the Sahel as part of its anti-terrorism operation Barkhane.
The coup leaders, who call themselves the National Committee for Salvation of the People (CNSP), have said they want to form a transitional government and organize new elections. They have also promised to respect Niger’s international commitments and cooperate with regional and international partners.
However, the coup has been widely condemned by the international community, including the African Union, the United Nations, the European Union, and the United States. They have urged the CNSP to release Mr Bazoum and other detained officials and return to constitutional order.
Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world, facing multiple challenges such as poverty, corruption, climate change and insecurity.