Niger’s junta, which has seized power in the West African country through a coup against its civilian rulers, has accused France of planning military intervention to return the deposed president to power.
The junta took aim at Paris on Monday, saying, “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 authorization.”
Niger’s military has been holding the country’s president, Mohamed Bazoum, since last week in the seventh coup to hit Africa’s Sahel region in recent years. General Abdourahamane Tiani, head of the powerful presidential guard, has declared himself leader.
The coup leaders faced their most direct threat since launching the putsch on Sunday when the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) gave them a week to return power to the country’s civilian authorities or face consequences, including the use of force.
Meanwhile, Bazoum’s Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism, known by its French initials as the PNDS, has warned that the country risks becoming a “dictatorial and totalitarian regime” after a series of arrests.
The warning came after earlier in the day, the oil and mining ministers as well as the head of the PNDS’ national executive committee were arrested, the party said. It added that the junta had previously arrested the interior minister, the transport minister, and a former defense minister.
France has responded to the junta’s accusation about planning military intervention in the country, with Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna denying the charges and adding that it was still “possible” to restore Bazoum to power.
Despite denying any intention to invade Niger, Paris has vowed to resort to “immediate and uncompromising” action if French citizens or interests were attacked.
The threat was verbalized by French President Emmanuel Macron after thousands of supporters of Niger’s military marched through the streets of the capital Niamey and gathered outside the French embassy, denouncing the country’s former colonial power and storming its diplomatic mission.