France concerned about its military presence in Niger after coup
Paris deploys currently 1,500 soldiers in Niger, where a French company also exploits uranium mines
By Alaattin Dogru
ANKARA (AA) – France is concerned about its military presence in Niger after the July 26 coup provoked tensions between the two countries.
Paris called on the junta to liberate President Mohamed Bazoum and evacuate French citizens and other nationals from Niger, but the situation caused a row with the junta when thousands of Nigeriens protested the French presence in front of its embassy and stormed the premises.
France deploys currently 1,500 soldiers in Niger, a West African country rich in uranium but with over 40% of its population living in poverty.
After recent military coups in neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso, France had to shift its troops deployed in the region for counterterrorism purposes to Niger.
Since the coup, Paris has suspended all financial support for Niger and did not recognize the putschists’ decision to suspend agreements concluded in past years.
The French chief of Defense Staff said last week that no withdrawal of the troops from Niger is planned, according to French daily Le Parisien.
France is exploiting uranium mines in Niger, and as it wants to ensure their safety, it is unlikely to withdraw its troops.
More than a week ago, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) told the junta to reinstate the deposed president within seven days — a period that ended Sunday — or face possible military intervention to restore the constitutional order.
Nigeria, Senegal, Ivory Coast, and Benin have all expressed their willingness to send troops into Niger if ECOWAS endorses the decision to reinstate Bazoum.
But Niger's neighbors Burkina Faso and Mali, both run by military rulers, declared their strong backing for the junta that deposed Bazoum, splitting from the ECOWAS position. This is weakening the probability of military intervention.
A group of soldiers calling themselves the National Council for the Safeguarding of the Country on May 26 detained Bazoum due to the "deteriorating security situation and bad governance," they said in a statement.
Declaring himself head of a transitional government, Gen. Abdourahamane Tchiani vowed not to give into threats to end the coup.
Bazoum was elected in 2021 in Niger’s first democratic power transition since it gained independence from French colonial rule in 1960.
* Writing by Nur Asena Erturk in Ankara
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