PARIS, August 28. /TASS/. France is set to support any efforts, including military intervention, made by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to restore constitutional order in Niger, French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday.
"We support the diplomatic and, if it is decided, the military activity of ECOWAS," he said, adding that Paris will not drop its support for legitimately elected President Mohamed Bazoum.
The French leader called on Niger’s residents not to be misled by the junta’s narrative that France is an enemy to Niger. The problem for Niger’s population, in his words, is that the rebels put them at risk by "refusing to fight terrorism and moving away from beneficial economic policy." This is why the country is "losing international financing that would help them out of poverty," he noted.
At the same time, Macron lambasted criticism coming from "Washington and other European capitals," as well as from the mass media that France is over-supporting President Bazoum. "We cannot expect other African capitals to listen to us if we don’t support a political leader should he be faced with this (a state coup - TASS)," he stressed.
Epidemic of state coups
According to the French leader, the Sahel region has been hit by "an epidemic of state coups, which stems from the weakness and lack of effectiveness of its military system." He expressed commitment to maintaining close ties between France and countries of the region, but in a different way.
"Without a fatherly attitude but also without showing signs of weakness either. We must continue to energetically support countries of this region, calling on them to act responsibly. If ECOWAS abandons President Bazoum, I think, all presidents in the region will see their future lot. And the weakness that was demonstrated amid the past coups has fanned moods in the region," he said.
He recalled his earlier decision to reshape cooperation with the countries of this region in the area of security, scale down Operation Barkhane in Mali and re-deploy the military contingent to other countries. In his words, France’s stable military presence in this or that country "is used by [France’s] enemies as an argument in the information war."
"Politics should remain the focus of our struggle. Our response to crises must be political. Our military presence must be based on a partnership requested by African countries. We are rethinking this partnership in terms of the military possibilities and training we are offering," he explained.
Situation in Niger
In late July, a group of military rebels in Niger announced the removal of President Mohamed Bazoum. They then established the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (Conseil national pour la sauvegarde de la patrie, CNSP), headed by General Abdourahmane Tchiani, to run the country. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) suspended Niger’s membership in the organization and imposed tough sanctions on the country. Apart from that, ECOWAS leaders demanded the rebels set Bazoum free and warned about a military resolution of the situation if he is not released.
ECOWAS commissioner for political affairs Abdel-Fatau Musah said after a meeting of the bloc’s military chiefs in Ghana on August 18 that the exact date for the intervention in Niger had been determined, but it is yet to be officially announced.
The French Le Canard Enchaine weekly said earlier citing a source in the French foreign policy and army circles that the French military and diplomats are irritated at what the United States is doing to win a foothold in Niger after the state coup.