NIAMEY-Pressure on Niger’s coup leaders mounted Saturday, the eve of a deadline set by the West African regional bloc ECOWAS for the military to relinquish control or face possible armed intervention.
Former colonial power France, with which the junta broke military ties after taking power on July 26, said it would “firmly” back whatever course of action ECOWAS took after the Sunday deadline expired.
“The future of Niger and the stability of the entire region are at stake,” the office of French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said after she held talks in Paris with Niger’s prime minister, Ouhoumoudou Mahamadou.
ECOWAS military chiefs of staff have agreed on a plan for a possible intervention to respond to the crisis, the latest of several coups to hit Africa’s Sahel region since 2020.
“We want diplomacy to work, and we want this message clearly transmitted to them (the junta) that we are giving them every opportunity to reverse what they have done,” ECOWAS commissioner Abdel-Fatau Musah said on Friday. But he warned that “all the elements that will go into any eventual intervention have been worked out,” including how and when force would be deployed. Niger has played a key part in Western strategies to combat jihadist insurgencies that have plagued the Sahel since 2012, with France and the United States stationing around 1,500 and 1,000 troops in the country, respectively. Yet anti-French sentiment in the region is on the rise, while Russian activity, often through the Wagner mercenary group, has grown. Moscow has warned against armed intervention from outside Niger.
The coup “is an error of judgement that goes totally against the interests of the country”, French Armed Forces Minister Sebastien Lecornu told AFP in an interview Saturday.