Emmanuel Macron ignores the threats of the coup leaders to expel France from Niger: "We do not recognize them" | International

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Emmanuel Macron addresses the French ambassadors at a conference held at the Élysée Palace this Monday, August 28.POOL (via REUTERS)

For now, France will keep its ambassador in Niger and its troops stationed in this country, some 1,500 soldiers, despite the threats of the military coup leaders who came to power a month ago through a coup d'état. French President Emmanuel Macron defended the legitimacy of ousted Nigerian President Mohamed Bazoum on Monday in Paris and refused to recognize the military junta that has seized power. Meanwhile, the tension increases in Niamey, the capital of Niger, where on Sunday thousands of protesters approached the vicinity of the 101 military base, where the French troops are, to demand their departure from the country. At the same time, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which is demanding the return of power to the country's democratic authorities, ensures that it continues to explore diplomatic channels to find a peaceful solution to the crisis.

Macron, in a speech before French ambassadors around the world, supported the ousted president Bazoum and challenged the coup plotters: "We do not recognize them." The French president confirmed that Sylvain Itte, French ambassador to Niger, remains in Niamey despite the fact that the coup leaders gave him 48 hours to leave the country on Friday. Itte, on Monday morning, followed the president's speech in Paris from the Embassy of the Nigerien capital, together with his collaborators. At that time, electricity and water were still working in the building, despite persistent rumors that the military junta had decided to cut off these basic services.

Macron considers that Bazoum is the legitimate president of Niger and that the bilateral agreements with France remain in force, although the coup leaders have denounced them. This includes the French military base with the presence of 1,500 troops. According to Paris, recognizing the military junta would be an incentive for other coups and would endanger allies of France.

The United States, which also has a military presence in Niger, has been more cautious in condemning and threatening the military junta. The Biden Administration avoids using the word “coup” to describe the military takeover and kidnapping of the president. And it is more cautious than France in the face of a possible military intervention in Niger by the countries of the region.

In defense of his African policy

In his speech in Paris, Macron defended France's African policy, accused by many on the continent of neocolonialist interference. He maintained that, without the military intervention of 2013, under the presidency of the socialist François Hollande and at the request of the Government of Mali, countries like Mali itself, Burkina Faso or Niger would have succumbed to the jihadist advance and would not exist on their current borders.

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The French president charged against what he called "a baroque alliance of so-called pan-Africanists and neo-imperialists." The term "neo-imperialists" refers to Russia's support for coup regimes in countries that until recently were close to France, such as Mali and Burkina Faso.

"Neither paternalism nor weakness," Macron said to describe France's position. It is a rebuttal to accusations of neocolonialism and, at the same time, a way of rejecting the idea of ​​a complete rout on a continent in which Paris continues to hold considerable military and economic interests, in addition to human ties stemming from immigration to France. native to the former colonies.

The speech at the Elysée Palace was the first time, since the July 26 coup in Niger, that Macron spoke in such detail about what he called "the epidemic of coups" in the Sahel, and the crisis which seriously undermines French influence in Africa, its old backyard. The speech, dedicated to the world situation and France's global interests, was not just about Africa.

But one of the central ideas had a lot to do with the Nigerian crisis: what the president sees as a risk of "weakening" the West and Europe around the world in the face of "a kind of rise in the politics of resentment." According to Macron, this resentment can take the form of “an imaginary anti-colonialism” or “anti-Westernism”.

Rebuking France for its obstinate support for the ousted Nigerian president, Macron responded: “What would we do if there was a coup in Bulgaria or Romania? Would they have told us not to pry too far? That there is no such thing, that it is not our house? It is inadmissible. There is a man, democratically elected and brave, because he does not leave office, and we are told that the correct policy would be to leave him?

Tension in Niamey

Meanwhile, tension continues to rise in Niamey after the 48-hour deadline given to the French ambassador to leave the country has passed. This Sunday, thousands of people demonstrated in front of the 101 military base in Niamey, which houses some 1,500 French soldiers, in addition to some 800 Americans, to demand the departure of the French troops from the country. Dozens of citizens also protested over the weekend in front of the French diplomatic legation, where the Nigerien police, in charge of the security of the outer perimeter, reinforced security.

On Saturday, the military junta organized a rally at Niamey's Seyni Kountché stadium to celebrate the first month since it came to power. In that act, members of the self-styled National Council for the Protection of the Homeland (CNSP) threatened to expel Ambassador Sylvain Itte by force if he decided to continue in the country.

On the other hand, the organization that brings together the countries of West Africa continues to doubt whether to launch a military intervention and tries to exhaust diplomatic channels. This was expressed this weekend by the president of the ECOWAS commission, Omar Alieu Touray, who said that the regional body is working "towards a friendly solution to restore constitutional order." He also addressed the citizens of Niger to assure them that the regional body "is very interested in their economic prosperity and social well-being" and that "their aspirations can only be met through democratic means and participatory governance."

The president of Nigeria and ECOWAS himself, Bola Tinubu, met this Saturday in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, with the US Assistant Secretary of State, Molly Phee, to whom he conveyed his intention to resolve this crisis by peaceful means, although the military intervention is still on the table. “We are immersed in the attempt to peacefully resolve the issue in Niger by taking advantage of our diplomatic tools. I continue to hold ECOWAS back, even though it is willing to accept all options, in order to exhaust all other corrective mechanisms. War is not ideal for my economic reforms, nor for the region, but the defense of democracy is sacrosanct. The ECOWAS consensus is that we will not allow anyone to waste time in an insincere way," Tinubu said after the meeting.

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