Niger says France is preparing for a possible military intervention

Niger’s junta on Sunday leveled accusations against France, alleging the deployment of troops in multiple West African nations as part of preparations for a potential joint military intervention with the regional bloc ECOWAS in Niger.

In a statement broadcast on state television overnight, the junta reiterated its demand for the withdrawal of French troops from its territory as the demand has been a significant source of tension between the two erstwhile allies since the removal of President Mohamed Bazoum on July 26.

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 colonial power, France, have deteriorated since Paris declared the junta as illegitimate. Amid a surge in anti-French sentiment, the coup’s leaders have adopted a strategy similar to the juntas in neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso, aiming to terminate longstanding military partnerships with France in the region’s collective efforts 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.”

In relation to the approximately 1,500 French troops stationed in Niger, Macron emphasized that any determination regarding their deployment would exclusively be made in collaboration 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 respond to the accusation of France deploying troops in other West African nations as part of a regional plan to utilize force as a final option to reinstate democracy.

The primary regional bloc, ECOWAS, has imposed sanctions on Niger and activated a standby force for a potential military intervention, although discussions are still underway to seek a diplomatic resolution.

Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu, currently holding the revolving chairmanship of ECOWAS, has put forward the idea that a nine-month transition back to civilian rule could appease regional powers. In contrast, Niger’s junta has previously advocated for a three-year timeline.

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