France has announced its plan to evacuate its citizens from Niger starting on Tuesday, following a recent coup that ousted the country’s pro-Western leader. The decision came in response to attacks on the French embassy in Niamey and the closure of Niger’s airspace, making regular departures impossible.
Earlier on Tuesday, France had stated its intention to carry out the evacuation due to the deteriorating security situation in Niamey, but the exact timeline was not specified.
Approximately 600 French nationals are currently in Niger, excluding tourists and French residents who are currently outside the country. The French government has extended its offer to evacuate other European nationals as well. To facilitate the evacuation, a ministerial meeting was convened to finalize the logistics and details of the operation. According to an insider familiar with the situation, France is planning to employ military personnel transport planes for the evacuation operation.
In the backdrop of ongoing political instability in the Sahel region, Niger President Mohamed Bazoum was detained by his own presidential guard, marking the third coup in as many years in the area. Similar situations have occurred in neighboring former French colonies of Mali and Burkina Faso. To combat the growing threat of jihadists, France and the United States have jointly deployed 2,600 soldiers in Niger.
Amidst the turmoil, Niger’s junta accused France of attempting to “intervene militarily” to reinstate President Bazoum, a claim that French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna refuted.
In response to potential threats against French citizens or interests, French President Emmanuel Macron made a strong commitment on Sunday, promising “immediate and uncompromising” action. This came after thousands of people protested outside the French embassy in Niamey.