Niger junta accuses France of planning military intervention

Niger junta accuses France of planning military intervention

‘France, with the complicity of certain Nigeriens, held a meeting with the Niger National Guard General Staff to obtain the necessary military authorizations,’ says spokesman

By Aurore Bonny

DOUALA, Cameroon (AA) - France has received authorization from certain Nigerien authorities to intervene militarily to free Niger’s president, who was detained last week as part of a putsch led by his presidential guard, the junta said in a statement issued Monday.

"In keeping with its policy of seeking ways and means to intervene militarily in Niger, France, with the complicity of certain Nigeriens, held a meeting with the Niger National Guard General Staff to obtain the necessary military authorizations," said junta spokesman Colonel Major Amadou Abdramane.

Hassoumi Massaoudou, the interim prime minister of the West African country, has given his consent for France to carry out strikes on the presidential palace with a view to freeing Mohamed Bazoum, according to the junta.

It also said that French security services violated a group of people who had come out to protest outside the French embassy in the capital Niamey on Sunday against France’s presence in the country following a march in support of the putsch.

The French intervention left six people injured according to Abdramane.

France denied the junta's accusations, saying "no lethal means were used by the French security forces" against the demonstrators, whom "the Nigerian security forces did not fully succeed in subduing.”

France also denied any planning of a military intervention in Niger.

"It's wrong," French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna told the BFM news channel. She said it is "possible" to restore Bazoum in his functions and that this is "necessary, because these destabilizations are perilous for Niger and its neighbors."

Niger's military rulers also accused France of violating their border closure decision by landing an A401-type military aircraft at Niamey International Airport on Thursday.

Anti-French demonstrations are not unheard of in Africa, particularly in West Africa, where Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso are also in transition following military coups. In these former French colonies, anti-French sentiment is growing and palpable. Mali and Burkina Faso have officially terminated their military agreements with their former colonial power, which was previously present as part of the fight against terrorism.

Niger is now home to the heart of France's military presence and to a large proportion of the forces disembarked from Mali. Some 1,500 French soldiers are stationed in various regions of Niger.

France suspended "with immediate effect, all its development aid and budget support to Niger" on Saturday, calling for "the immediate return to constitutional order in Niger” under President Mohamed Bazoum.

Germany has also suspended its development aid to Niger.

The deposed president is in good health, according to the latest news relayed by international authorities, who have reported conversations with him.

Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno, president of the transitional government in Chad, a Sahelian country in Central Africa, reported a meeting with Bazoum and General Abdourahamane Tchiani, the commander of his presidential guard at the head of the putsch, late Sunday.

In photos published by the Nigerien and Chadian diplomatic services, the Nigerien president can be seen smiling broadly at his Chadian counterpart, the mediator mandated by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

The West African bloc issued an ultimatum on Sunday to the junta to reinstate the democratically elected president in one week, announcing the "immediate" suspension of "all commercial and financial transactions" with the country. This attitude was welcomed by France, the US and the European Union.

The Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS-Tarayya), Bazoum's party, on Monday denounced the "abusive arrests" of its member ministers, notably those of El Hadj Foumakoye Gado, high representative of the President of the Republic, Mahamane Sani Mahamadou, Minister of Petroleum, Ousseini Hadizatou, Minister of Mines, Hama Adamou Souley, Minister of the Interior and Decentralization, and Oumarou Malam Alma, Minister of Transport.

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