Mohamed Bazoum, former Niger leader, urges global assistance amid junta’s advisory against interference
- Deposed president Mahomed Bazoum appeals for international support in restoring “constitutional order” in Niger.
- The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has given Niger’s junta until Sunday to reinstate Bazoum.
- The junta has warned of an immediate military response to any intervention.
- Thousands of protesters showed their support for the coup leaders on Niger’s independence anniversary.
Niger’s junta has threatened to respond forcefully to “any aggression” as the deadline set by neighboring countries approaches, while the ousted leader of the country has called for international assistance in “restoring our constitutional order.”
The coup leaders have also criticized international condemnation of the coup, cancelling military agreements with France and recalling ambassadors from Paris, Washington, Togo, and Nigeria.
ECOWAS has given the junta until Sunday to reinstate President Mohamed Bazoum, who was overthrown by his own guard on July 26, or face the possibility of military intervention.
Regional military leaders are currently in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, to discuss the potential intervention, but Nigerian President Bola Tinubu has urged them to do whatever is necessary to achieve a peaceful resolution.
The junta in Niger has warned that they will respond with force if necessary.
In a televised statement on Thursday, one of the coup leaders stated:
Any aggression or attempted aggression against the State of Niger will result in an immediate and unexpected response from the Niger Defence and Security Forces against one of the bloc’s members.
This statement excludes “suspended friendly countries,” referring to Burkina Faso and Mali, neighboring countries that have also experienced military coups in recent years.
The juntas in these countries have declared that any military intervention in Niger would be considered a declaration of war against them.
Nigeria, as the leading military and economic power in West Africa, currently holds the chairmanship of ECOWAS and has pledged a firm stance against coups.
ECOWAS has already imposed trade and financial sanctions on Niger.
Senegal has announced its willingness to send troops to support ECOWAS if a military intervention is decided.
Foreign Minister Aissata Tall Sall stated, “This is one coup too many.”
An ECOWAS delegation, led by former Nigerian leader Abdulsalami Abubakar, arrived in Niamey on Thursday and is scheduled to meet with the junta leaders.
Bazoum, who has been detained by the coup plotters along with his family, warned on Thursday that if the coup succeeds, it will have severe consequences for Niger, the region, and the world as a whole.
In an article published in The Washington Post, his first lengthy statement since being detained, he called on the US government and the international community to assist in restoring constitutional order.
On Thursday, thousands of people across Niger rallied in support of the coup leaders on the anniversary of the country’s independence from France. Some of them carried large Russian flags and chanted anti-French slogans.
Anti-French sentiment is increasing in the region, while Russian involvement, often through the Wagner mercenary group, is growing.
In his letter, Bazoum warned that Niger’s neighbors have increasingly allowed “criminal Russian mercenaries such as the Wagner Group” to enter, at the expense of their people’s rights and dignity.
The entire Sahel region could fall under Russian influence through the Wagner Group, whose brutal terrorism has been evident in Ukraine.
Despite these concerns, the crowd in Niamey chanted “Down with France” and “Long live Russia, long live Putin.”
Protester Issiaka Hamadou expressed that their main concern is security, regardless of whether it is provided by Russia, China, or Turkey if they are willing to help.
He said, “We simply do not want the French who have been exploiting us since 1960. They have been there all this time, and nothing has changed.”
In a sign of their dissatisfaction with Paris, the junta announced on Thursday that it was terminating the military agreements between Niamey and France.
Blaming France’s “careless attitude and its reaction to the situation,” they declared that they have decided to cancel the cooperation agreements in the fields of security and defense with France.
Additionally, the junta is recalling their ambassadors from Paris, Nigeria, Togo, and the United States.
They stated, “The functions of the extraordinary and plenipotentiary ambassadors of the Republic of Niger to France, Nigeria, Togo, and the United States are terminated.”
Niger has played a significant role in Western strategies to combat the jihadist insurgency in the Sahel since 2012, with France and the United States deploying approximately 1,500 and 1,000 troops in the country, respectively.
In response to the turmoil, Britain and the United States have announced the withdrawal of embassy personnel.
France has evacuated 1,079 individuals from the country, more than half of whom are French nationals.
The United States has chartered a plane to evacuate non-essential personnel and American citizens who wish to leave the country, according to the State Department.
An expert outlines three driving factors
Bazoum, 63, was celebrated in 2021 after winning elections that marked Niger’s first-ever peaceful transfer of power.
He assumed leadership of a country burdened by four previous coups since gaining independence and had survived two attempted coups before his overthrow.
France redirected its anti-jihadist mission in Niger after withdrawing from Mali and Burkina Faso last year.