French Armed Forces Minister Sebastien Lecornu expressed concerns over the recent coup in Niger, stating that it will undermine the fight against resurgent terror groups in Africa’s Sahel region. The coup, which ousted President Mohamed Bazoum, has drawn strong criticism from France, which has 1,500 troops deployed in Niger for anti-terror operations.
Lecornu praised the actions of the regional West African group ECOWAS, which has given the junta until Sunday to restore democratic rule or face the threat of military action. He emphasized that President Bazoum has been taken “hostage,” and the coup will not only affect him but also the entire population of Niger.
The situation is critical as various Islamist terror groups, including Boko Haram, Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), and Al-Qaeda’s local branch, are regaining strength in the region. The coup’s timing has raised concerns, given the increasing activity of armed terrorist groups in certain failed states like Mali.
France firmly supports ECOWAS’s efforts to reverse the coup and restore democratic processes in Niger. However, Lecornu warned that the situation could escalate if external players like the Russian mercenary group Wagner get involved. While there is no indication of Wagner’s involvement in the coup, Lecornu cautioned that such interference could have catastrophic consequences for Niger, similar to what happened in Mali after French forces withdrew.
The coup’s origins are believed to stem from a “personal dispute,” with General Abdourahamane Tiani, head of Niger’s presidential guard, leading the coup. France had recognized the fragile nature of Bazoum’s position, but the extent of the coup’s internal motivations was unexpected.
Despite some protests and anti-French sentiments in Niger, Lecornu urged calm and objective assessment of the facts. He emphasized the importance of acknowledging ECOWAS’s efforts in managing the crisis and respecting international law and democratic processes. France remains committed to supporting stability and combating terrorism in the region.