West Africa: Niger's Junta Finds Support in Mali and Russia, but France Stands Firm

A map showing the location of Niger (orange) and Mali (green).

The leaders of Russia and Mali have agreed the political crisis in Niger should be resolved using diplmoacy and not force. Meanwhile France has rejected accusations by Niger's coup leaders that it's planning a military intervention.

The Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin and interim Malian leader Assimi Goita had talked by telephone at Bamako's request.

They discussed the situation in Niger and said the political crisis sparked by a coup d'etat on 26 July 26 should be resolved "through political and diplomatic means".

The comment came a day after Niger's military rulers accused former colonial power France of assembling troops, war materials and equipment in several neighbouring West African countries with a view to "military intervention" in the Sahel state.

A rise in France-Niger tensions

Relations with France have degraded with Paris standing by ousted president Mohamed Bazoum.

Speaking from the G20 summit in India, French President Emmanuel Macron denied accusations by Niger that France was preparing to deploy its forces in Ecowas (Economic Community of West African States with the aim of a military aggression against Niger.

Macron told journalists he did not recognise the legitimacy of the statements made by Niger's putschists, adding that he had daily phone conversations with deposed president Bazoum.

#France - #Niger : À l'occasion du Sommet du G20 à New Delhi, le Président français Emmanuel Macron a animé une conférence de presse où il a abordé la question du Niger. Question journaliste: « Juste une question à propos du Niger, je voulais savoir comment vous réagissiez aux... pic.twitter.com/xs9WgqFiFH-- KONATE Malick (@konate90) September 10, 2023

Meanwhile, over the weekend, thousands of young Nigeriens took to the streets to demand that French soldiers leave Niger.

Most of them chanted: "Macron, get out of our house".

Rallies to protest the presence of the 1,500-strong French military presence in Mali have attracted tens of thousands of people over the past 10 days.

Demonstrators have gathering around the airbase in the capital Niamey, which hosts part of the French contingent.

A Mali-Russia-Niger axis

During his telephone exchange with Putin, Goita thanked Russia for vetoing an attempt by the UN Security Council to keep a team of UN experts in Mali.

The experts had accused "foreign forces", a veiled reference to the Russian mercenary group Wagner, of involvement in widespread abuses in Mali.

Mali shares a long border with Niger, and, immediately after the coup, its junta voiced support for Niger's new military rulers.

It has on several occasions stated its opposition to a military intervention there.

Mali has shifted sharply to Russia since back-to-back coups in 2020 and 2021, becoming one of the few nations to back Moscow at the United Nations over its invasion of Ukraine.

The Kremlin added that Putin and Goita also discussed cooperation between Russia and Mail on economic and commercial issues, and on "anti-terror" operations.

Ecowas leaders have threatened to intervene militarily in Niger, the fourth West African nation since 2020 to suffer a coup after Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea.

The bloc suspended the four countries one after another.

According to RFI's correspondent in West Africa, Ecowas troops from Ghana and Senegal are ready to deploy.

(with newswires)

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