Niger military says France deploying forces in West Africa for ‘aggression’
Niger’s junta leaders say France is deploying its military forces to West African countries with a plan for “aggression” against its former colony.
“France continues to deploy its forces in several ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) countries as part of preparations for aggression against Niger, which it is planning in collaboration with this community organization,” Niger’s regime spokesman Colonel Major Amadou Abdramane said on Saturday.
In his statement, Abdramane said France had deployed military aircraft, helicopters and 40 armored vehicles to Cote d’Ivoire and Benin.
“Military cargo aircraft have enabled large quantities of war material and equipment to be unloaded in Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire and Benin, to name but a few,” he added.
The junta seized power from President Mohamed Bazoum in a July coup staged by the presidential guard who later gained support from the rest of the country’s military forces and the Muslim nation.
In the meantime, relations have deteriorated between Paris and Niamey ever since the putsch, due to the former’s refusal to recognize Niger’s new rulers and its throwing support behind the ousted president.
Last month, Niger’s military leaders declared French Ambassador to Niamey as persona non grata and revoked his diplomatic immunity.
France has roughly 1,500 forces in Niger.
Niger's junta embroiled in standoff with ECOWAS
The West African bloc has threatened to intervene militarily if talks to return the ousted president fail. The ECOWAS warned that it would not engage in endless dialogue with Niger’s junta.
The defense chiefs of the 15-member bloc said last month that they were ready to take military action anytime the order is given by their superiors.
“We are ready to go anytime the order is given,” ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security Abdel-Fatau Musah said. “The D-Day is also decided, which we are not going to disclose.”
However, the bloc added it preferred a peaceful solution to the crisis, and taking military action would be the last option.