Coup d'état in Niger: France evacuates its citizens

After the attack on its embassy, Emmanuel Macron’s administration announced it would evacuate its citizens by air.

The French government announced Tuesday that it was launching an operation to evacuate its citizens from Niger. The African country is going through an episode of instability after the military staged a coup d'état. Since then, the coup plotters have been holding President Mohamed Bazoum and his close circle in the Presidential Palace.

A large number of pro-coup protesters took to the streets of Niamey, the capital of Niger, in front of the French embassy. According to local media reports and the French Foreign Ministry, the mob attacked the Embassy premises and set fire to one of its entrances. They tried to get inside the complex but were unsuccessful. The complex’s security team fought off the attack with non-lethal forces, according to a statement issued by the French government. The military coup perpetrators claim that they shot to kill.

Following this weekend's episode, Catherine Colonna's ministry announced that at 3 pm. local time, the first French plane would take off from the capital of Niamey to evacuate the 600 or so French citizens in the country. France informed the other European citizens in Niger who wanted to leave the country that they could also do so by their own means. The Italian government also announced that it would make air assets available to evacuate more citizens and diplomatic personnel. The French government explained that, with Niger’s airspace closed by order of the coup leaders, foreigners would have no other means of safely leaving the country.

The French aircraft can be tracked using the app FlightRadar.

In another statement, France denied its intention to have its military intervene in Niger, as the coup plotters claimed. In a televised announcement, coup military commanders announced that the French Armed Forces were preparing an aerial strike on the Presidential Palace to free the president.

Another coup d'état in favor of Russia

There has been more anti-French sentiment In Niger in recent years. France had colonial power until the 1960s. The current situation is similar to that of Mali or Burkina Faso, where coup governments backed by the Wagner group and the Kremlin took advantage and increased the general anti-Western sentiment to gain strength in Africa.

France has a military base in Niger with about 1,000 troops. After pulling out of Mali, it relocated its military to Niger and for the time being, its next destination is still up in the air.

The United States also has a drone air base in Agadez, a city in the middle of the country, with 1,000 occupants. The State Department and the White House condemned the military coup and called on the coup’s organizers to restore the elected president to office. However, the Biden administration still does not officially consider the coup as such, which would end all avenues of cooperation and funding between the United States and Niger.

Threat of armed conflict

ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States), an international organization that brings together the states of the region for the promotion of the economy, issued a statement condemning the coup in Niger and announced a series of sanctions against the country and the military coup leaders. The organization gave the coup plotters seven days to get the situation back to normal in Niger. Otherwise, member states threatened to have their militaries intervene in the country. Mali and Burkina Faso responded with a joint statement announcing that, in the event of a military intervention in Niger, both countries would intervene on the side of the coup plotters.