Niger coup leader warns regional and Western powers against military intervention

A supporter holds a picture of Niger General Abdourahamane Tiani, the chief of the powerful presidential guard, as with others rally in support of Niger's junta in Niamey on July 30, 2023

The junta says it took power because of the worsening security and economic situation

Niger’s coup leaders have warned regional and Western powers against military intervention to reinstate the ousted president.

A statement claimed that regional body Ecowas was preparing to approve a “plan of aggression against Niger”.

The bloc of West African nations has not commented. It is meeting to discuss the coup, which it has condemned.

Meanwhile hundreds of coup supporters protested outside the French embassy in Niamey, after France stopped aid.

Some of them chanted “Long live Russia”, “Long live Putin” and “Down with France”, AFP news agency reports.

France would not tolerate any attack on its interests in Niger, and would respond in an “immediate and intractable manner”, President Emmanuel Macron’s office said in a statement.

The coup has prompted concern that Niger could pivot towards Russia. Neighbouring Burkina Faso and Mali both moved closer to Russia since their own coups.

Gen Abdourahmane Tchiani – the head of the presidential guards unit who has declared himself Niger’s new leader – warned Ecowas and unnamed Western nations against stepping in.

“We once again reiterate to Ecowas or any other adventurer our firm determination to defend our fatherland,” the statement, which was read out on TV, said.

About two weeks ago the Ecowas chairman, Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu, warned that terrorism and the emerging pattern of coups in West Africa had reached alarming levels and demanded urgent action.

The African Union and Western nations have also condemned the military takeover, but the leader of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has reportedly described it as a triumph.

“What happened in Niger is nothing other than the struggle of the people of Niger with their colonisers,” he was quoted as saying on a Wagner-affiliated Telegram channel, although his comments have not been independently verified.

Armies have also seized power in recent years in Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea.

The junta in Mali has brought in Russia’s Wagner mercenary group to help it fight militant Islamists.

France, the former colonial power, announced the withdrawal of its troops last year amid growing hostility from the junta.

It subsequently moved its regional military headquarters to Niger.

In June, Mali’s junta said the UN’s 12,000 peacekeepers also had to leave following a decade of countering Islamist militants.

The UN agreed, saying the withdrawal would be completed by the end of the year.

On Saturday, France said it had suspended all development aid and budgetary support to Niger.

The European Union and the US have made a similar decision, while the AU has called on the army to return to base within 15 days.

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