The junta took aim at Paris on Monday, saying, “In its search for ways and means to intervene militarily in Niger, France with the complicity of some Nigeriens, held a meeting with the chief of staff of the Nigerien National Guard to obtain the necessary political and military authorization.”
Niger’s military has been holding the country’s president, Mohamed Bazoum, since last week in the seventh coup to hit Africa’s Sahel region in recent years. General Abdourahamane Tiani, head of the powerful presidential guard, has declared himself leader.
The coup leaders faced their most direct threat since launching the putsch on Sunday when the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) gave them a week to return power to the country’s civilian authorities or face consequences, including the use of force.
Meanwhile, Bazoum’s Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism, known by its French initials as the PNDS, has warned that the country risks becoming a “dictatorial and totalitarian regime” after a series of arrests.
The warning came after earlier in the day, the oil and mining ministers as well as the head of the PNDS’ national executive committee were arrested, the party said. It added that the junta had previously arrested the interior minister, the transport minister, and a former defense minister.
France has responded to the junta’s accusation about planning military intervention in the country, with Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna denying the charges and adding that it was still “possible” to restore Bazoum to power.
Despite denying any intention to invade Niger, Paris has vowed to resort to “immediate and uncompromising” action if French citizens or interests were attacked.
The threat was verbalized by French President Emmanuel Macron after thousands of supporters of Niger’s military marched through the streets of the capital Niamey and gathered outside the French embassy, denouncing the country’s former colonial power and storming its diplomatic mission.
“Intervention in Niger tantamount to declaration of war”
In a related development on Monday, Mali and Burkina Faso, both among Niger’s neighbors, issued a strongly-worded statement, warning against any form of foreign intervention in the West African country.
“Any military intervention against Niger would be tantamount to a declaration of war against Burkina Faso and Mali,” the two countries warned.
They made the comments after West African leaders threatened to use “force” to reinstate Bazoum and slapped financial sanctions on the putschists.
The two countries added that the “disastrous consequences of a military intervention in Niger… could destabilize the entire region.”
Burkina Faso and Mali also said they “refuse to apply” the “illegal, illegitimate and inhumane sanctions against the people and authorities of Niger.”
Niger is the third Sahel country in less than three years, following Mali and Burkina Faso, to be shaken by a military coup.
In a separate statement, Guinea — which is also run by a government born through a coup — expressed its “disagreement with the sanctions recommended by ECOWAS, including military intervention.”
It said it had “decided not to apply these sanctions, which it considers illegitimate and inhumane,” urging ECOWAS to “reconsider its position.”