France is preparing to evacuate its citizens from Niger following the coup d’état in the west African country on 26 July. The French embassy in Niamey – the capital of Niger – said in a statement that the air evacuation ‘will take place very soon and over a very short period of time’.
Last week’s coup, in which general Abdourahamane Tchiani of the elite presidential guard seized power from president Mohamed Bazoum, is the latest turmoil in a region that has become dangerously destabilised in the last three years. There have been coups in Mali and Burkina Faso which, like Niger, were former French colonies but have turned against their erstwhile master.
There were demonstrations on Sunday in Niamey in which Russian flags were brandished and French flags were burned, and some protestors gathered outside the French embassy. A small number attempted to enter the compound but were repelled by tear gas. President Macron subsequently warned general Tchiani that his response would be ‘immediate and uncompromising’ if French citizens in Niger were harmed.
On Monday, the junta claimed that embassy security guards had injured six protestors during the previous day’s demonstration, and it also accused France of meddling in its affairs.
‘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 authorisation’, said a statement released on television. France’s foreign minister, Catherine Colonna, refuted the accusation, declaring that their ‘only priority is the safety of our nationals’.
Tchiani says that he deposed Bazoum because of ‘the degradation of the security situation’, a reference to the ongoing conflict with the region’s jihadist groups.