TEHRAN (Iran News) –Niger’s new interim government has accused France of sending its troops and “large quantities of war material” to the region in preparation for a potential invasion to overthrow the coup leaders.
According to Niger’s new military officers, the French military forces have been deployed to several West African countries as part of the preparations for a military attack, in coordination with the regional bloc of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), against Niger.
Colonel Amadou Abdramane, a spokesman for Niger’s coup leaders and its new interim government, made the announcement on national television.
In a communique read on state television, the military officers, who ousted President Mohamed Bazoum in late July, also repeated their call for the departure of French troops from Nigerian soil.
The statement by Niger has appealed to “national and international opinion to witness the consequences of this aggressive, underhanded, and contemptuous attitude adopted by France.”
French “military cargo aircraft have enabled large quantities of war material and equipment to be unloaded in Senegal, Ivory Coast and Benin, to name but a few”, Abdramane said.
Relations between Niger and its former colonial power France have soured since Paris declared the new military-installed government as illegitimate.
Critics have accused France of being extremely hypocritical as Paris has previously supported interim governments that have come to power through military coups in various other countries in the region, including Algeria.
Analysts have said that France supports military coups in the continent depending on which French agenda they want to serve.
Amid a wave of anti-French sentiment, the military leaders in Niger have also followed the policies of the coup leaders in neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso in seeking to end long-standing military ties with France. Numerous West African countries have accused the French armed forces of playing a destabilizing role in their countries to satisfy France’s economic interests.
When asked about the Nigerian military leaders’ latest remarks on a potential war, French President Emmanuel Macron said, “We do not recognize any legitimacy in the statements of the putschists.”
He refused to directly address the statements made by the Nigerian military that France was deploying troops elsewhere in West Africa as part of a plan to attack Niger.
The main regional bloc, ECOWAS, has imposed sanctions on Niger and activated a so-called standby force for the possible military intervention.
ECOWAS says the use of force would only be a last resort and that it would prefer a peaceful solution to the standoff. The regional bloc remains engaged in ongoing dialogue with Niger to try and find a diplomatic solution.
Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu, who holds the ECOWAS rotating chairmanship, has recently proposed a nine-month transition back to civilian rule, a measure that would satisfy regional powers. Niger’s junta has previously suggested a three-year timeline to restore order.
At the end of a two-day summit of G20 leaders in India, Macron was questioned on the roughly 1,500 French troops stationed in Niger. The French leader said any decision about their deployment would only be made in coordination with the deposed president.
“If we ever redeploy… I would do so only at the request of President Bazoum,” Macron told a news conference.
Experts believe that since the new leadership in Niger does not want to serve the French economic and colonial agenda, Paris is now leading the calls to push for a military attack.
What France has refused to acknowledge is the mass street protests that have been staged in Niger over the past weeks in support of the interim government.
Over the past seven days alone the people of Niger have been demonstrating and holding sit-ins outside the French military bases demanding that the French forces pack up and go home. It is a clear sign that Nigerians are against the French military presence in their country.
However, those calls have fallen on deaf ears. Paris has so far refused to address the protests or open dialogue with the coup leader’s interim government.
Experts have attributed this to the fact that France gets most of its uranium to run its nuclear power stations from Niger.
If France were to sever its relations with Niger, Paris would lose out on a major source of uranium for its electricity power plants, especially as French households are in vital need of electricity.
The Ukraine war which led to the cut of gas imports from Russia has pushed energy prices in Europe, including France.
The source of this electricity is something that France desperately requires at the moment.
From an economic standpoint, France also maintains its colonial mindset, with 50 percent of Niger’s revenues being deposited into the French treasury. This economic policy
which has been practiced for decades has contributed to high rates of poverty among Niger’s population of about 26 million.
Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world. It is also suffering from a rising inflation rate.
Niger is not the only country in the Francophone West Africa region being forced to hand over 50 percent of its revenues to France.
Several years ago, ECOWAS mulled the idea of forming a common currency, known as eco, to bypass this process.
ECOWAS reached a consensus on the plan before France got involved and sabotaged the entire initiative, as it stood to lose a huge amount of financial income, in particular from the countries that were subject to France’s former colonial rule.
Analysts say this is just one of the reasons why there is so much anti-French sentiment in the West African region.
One of the reasons that military officers ousted President Bazoum was that his government failed to effectively counter militants despite cooperation with France.
Critics warn that military intervention in Niger will not eradicate terrorism in the country. Instead, they say, it will exacerbate the security situation by creating a power vacuum in the country which the terrorists will misuse to wreak more havoc on Niger and beyond.
All the coups in West Africa over the past several years, including Mali, Burkina Faso, and others, were staged with the aim of cutting relations with France.
- source : Tehrantimes