In a statement aired on national television on Thursday evening, the rebels in Niger announced the cancellation of several military agreements with France, particularly concerning the “deployment” of the French battalion and the “placement” of soldiers involved in the fight against jihadists. They also issued a warning of an “immediate response” to any “aggression” or “attempted aggression” from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
A member of the military junta stated that in response to France’s “indifferent stance” and its reaction to the situation in Niger, the National Council for the Protection of the Homeland has decided to invalidate cooperation agreements with France in the fields of security and defense.
Furthermore, the military coup leaders in Niger announced the “termination” of their country’s ambassadors’ missions to France, the United States, Nigeria, and Togo, amid increasing international pressure for the restoration of constitutional order in the country.
The military junta declared that they will respond “immediately” to any “aggression or attempted aggression” against their country by the ECOWAS, just three days before the deadline given by the organization for the return of constitutional order in Niger.
The statement also emphasized that “any aggression or attempted aggression against the state of Niger will be met with an immediate and unannounced response by the Nigerien defense and security forces against any member (of the organization) except for friendly states whose membership has been suspended,” referring to Burkina Faso and Mali.
Meanwhile, a delegation from ECOWAS arrived in Niamey, the capital of Niger, on Thursday evening in an attempt to find a way out of the crisis, eight days after the coup that ousted President Mohamed Bazoum.
A statement issued by the Nigerien presidency indicated that the ECOWAS delegation, led by former Nigerian Head of State, Abdulsalami Abubakar, would “meet with the coup leaders in Niger to present the demands of the group’s leaders.”
Before the delegation’s arrival in Niamey, Niger’s President, Mohamed Bazoum, stressed the need for a “peaceful solution” to the crisis in Niger after the sanctions imposed on the country and giving the coup leaders a deadline to restore constitutional order.
ECOWAS has imposed strict sanctions on Niamey and granted the coup perpetrators until Sunday to reinstate the democratically elected President Bazoum, who was ousted on July 26th, threatening to use “force.”
The regional organization, which has notably suspended financial transactions with Niger, has also prepared for a possible military intervention, but has emphasized that this remains “the last option on the table.”
Meanwhile, chiefs of staff from member states of the Economic Community of West African States are meeting in Abuja until Friday, while several countries in the region, including Senegal, have expressed readiness to intervene if Bazoum is not reinstated.
Relations between Niger and its former colonial power, France, have been strained. On Thursday, France 24 television and Radio France Internationale were suspended in Niger “in a decision taken outside any legal framework,” according to the parent company, France Médias Monde.
A high-ranking official in Niger told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that the action was taken “on the instructions of the new military authorities.”
The French Foreign Ministry stated in a press release, “France reaffirms its constant commitment and determination to preserve freedom of expression and freedom of the press and to protect journalists.” It added, “In Niger, actions against the press came in the context of oppressive repression carried out by the coup leaders.”
Reporters Without Borders also condemned the violation of the public’s right to diverse information in an already difficult security context in the Sahel region.
France 24 and Radio France Internationale have previously been suspended in neighboring Burkina Faso and Mali, both led by military councils, and Niger’s ruling army sent troops and two delegations to both countries on Wednesday.
The authorities in Ouagadougou and Bamako warned on Monday in a joint statement that any military intervention in Niger to restore Bazoum to power would be considered “a declaration of war against Burkina Faso and Mali.”
The suspension of France 24 and Radio France Internationale’s broadcasts came on the sixty-third anniversary of Niger’s independence from France.
Since the coup, relations with Paris have deteriorated, and incidents that occurred on Sunday during a demonstration in front of the French Embassy led to the evacuation of over 500 French nationals.
Thousands of demonstrators in support of the ruling military council took part in a peaceful march in several cities in Niger on Thursday, called for by the “M62” coalition composed of “sovereign” civil society organizations.
Many protesters chanted slogans criticizing France and waved flags of Russia, which has drawn closer ties with Mali and Burkina Faso.
AFP correspondents reported that the Nigerien police blocked access to the French Embassy on Thursday. Paris reminded before the demonstration that “ensuring the security of missions and diplomatic personnel is a commitment under international law.”
France evacuated 577 of its citizens from Niger on Tuesday and Wednesday. However, the leader of the coup military group, General Abdulrahmane Tani, stated that there is “no objective reason” for the French to leave the country, emphasizing that French nationals “have never been subject to the slightest threat.”
Meanwhile, the United States sent a plane to evacuate its non-essential personnel from Niger, with President Joe Biden calling for the “immediate release of President Bazoum.”
Paris and Washington each deploy around 1,100 and 1,500 military personnel in Niger, and there are no plans for their evacuation.
On Thursday evening, the German army announced that it had flown “about thirty people” from Niamey to German territory, hailing from “Germany, the European Union, and other countries.”
The army stated on the X social network (previously Twitter) that the military transport plane A400M had arrived at Niamey airport before the coup to change its crew, adding, “on the return flight to Germany today, about thirty people will be on board.”
According to an article published by the German weekly Der Spiegel on Thursday evening, these are mainly soldiers from the German army who participated in the United Nations mission in neighboring Mali (MINUSMA). The departure of these soldiers had been previously planned as part of a rotation.
As there were still places on the plane, the German army decided to welcome about ten non-German civilians on board, according to Der Spiegel.
Bazoum (63 years old) has been held with his family at the presidential residence since the day of the coup. His party stated that electricity has been deliberately cut off to him on Thursday.
Regarding the sanctions, General Tani said in a televised speech on Wednesday that he rejects “collective sanctions” and “submission to any threat,” adding, “We refuse any interference in Niger’s internal affairs.”