Any attack on French nationals or interests in Niger will provoke a strong immediate reaction from France, the French government said on Sunday, as pro-junta protests took place outside the French Embassy in Niamey following last week’s military coup.
“The President (Emmanuel Macron) will not tolerate any attack against France and its interests,” Macron’s office said in a statement, specifying that it would respond to attacks against French diplomats, armed forces, or businesses.
Macron has spoken with ousted President Mohamed Bazoum and former president of Niger Mahamadou Issoufou in the last few hours, the statement said, adding that both of them condemned the coup and called for calm.
France announced on Saturday it was cutting all development aid to Niger and called for the return of Bazoum. Niger has been a security partner of former colonial power France, and the United States, which have used it as a base to fight an Islamist insurgency in West and Central Africa’s wider Sahel region.
The Wednesday coup saw Gen Abdourahmane Tchiani aka Omar Tchiani, declare himself as the new leader of Niger after he staged a takeover that started when the presidential guards unit he led seized the country’s leader which has shattered Niger’s first peaceful and democratic transition since independence in 1960.
President Mohamed Bazoum is thought to be in good health and still held captive by his own guards.
The coup has been roundly condemned by international bodies including the African Union, the West African regional bloc (Ecowas), the EU and the UN.
However, the leader of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group has reportedly praised the coup, describing it as a triumph.
“What happened in Niger is nothing other than the struggle of the people of Niger with their colonizers,” Yevgeny Prigozhin was quoted as saying on a Wagner-affiliated Telegram channel.
Gen Tchiani, 62, has been in charge of the presidential guard since 2011 and was promoted to the rank of general in 2018 by former President Mahamadou Issoufou.
He had also been linked to a 2015 coup attempt against the ex-president but appeared in court to deny it.
Speaking in a televised address, Gen Tchiani said his junta took over because of several problems in Niger, including insecurity, economic woes, and corruption, amongst other matters.
Niger’s coup is the latest in a wave of takeovers that have hit the West African region in recent years, toppling governments in countries including Mali, Guinea, and Burkina Faso.