By: Robert Patrick Fati Gakwerere
On Friday, France rejected a move by Niger’s junta to scrap bilateral military pacts, saying only the west African country’s “legitimate” leadership was entitled to do so. Meanwhile regional Ecowas delegation quit the country after failing to secure the return to power of Niger’s elected government.
General Abdourahmane Tchiani, who was declared as the new head of state of Niger by leaders of a coup, arrived to meet with ministers in Niamey, Niger July 28, 2023.
“The legal framework of France’s defence agreement with Niger is based on accords that were signed with the legitimate Nigerien authorities,” France’s foreign ministry said, after the new rulers in Niamey said it was cancelling all military cooperation agreements with Paris.
The news came after a team from west African bloc ECOWAS left Niger on Friday without meeting the country’s new strongman, Gen Abdourahamane Tchiani.
The Economic Community of West African States delegation arrived in the capital on Thursday “but did not spend the night” as scheduled, nor meet with General Tchiani or ousted President Mohamed Bazoum.
Nigeria, which holds the rotating presidency of ECOWAS, has imposed sanctions on Niger on Sunday and gave the coup leaders a week to restore ousted President, Mohammed Bazoum to power or risk possible armed intervention.
However, Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu said the bloc would do its best to resolve the crisis amicably but ECOWAS said it could use military force as a last resort.
Regional military chiefs are currently in Nigeria’s capital Abuja to discuss the possibility of such an intervention.
EU condemns French media blackout in Niger
Also on Friday, the European Union “strongly condemned” the blocking of France 24 and RFI broadcasts in Niger, where the coup has sparked protests against the country’s former colonial ruler.
“This step is a serious violation of the right to information and freedom of expression. The EU strongly condemns these violations of fundamental freedoms,” EU spokeswoman Nabila Massrali said on her Twitter.
In a statement from France Médias Monde, “The broadcasting of RFI and France 24 has been interrupted in Niger. France Médias Monde deplores this decision taken outside any conventional and legal framework, further depriving citizens in the region of their access to free and independent information.
“This incident follows previous cases of censorship faced by RFI and France 24 in
Mali and Burkina Faso in recent months. The group reaffirms its steadfast commitment to the freedom of information, and the safety of its journalists,” it added.
Meanwhile Niger’s coup leaders have lifted the curfew they imposed after taking power on 26 July.
“The curfew imposed since July 26, 2023 is officially lifted as of today,” according to a decree dated late Thursday and signed by General Tchiani.