France begins evacuation of citizens, others from Niger

FRANCE will begin to evacuate its citizens and other European nationals from Niger Republic on Tuesday, August 1.

According to a statement from the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, the decision to evacuate citizens was prompted by attacks on the French embassy in Niamey and the closure of Niger’s airspace, which made regular departures impossible.

Niger’s democratically elected President, Mohamed Bazoum, was ousted in a coup last Wednesday, July 26.

The head of Presidential Guards, Omar Tchiani, declared himself the new leader of the uranium-rich country two days after.

This development escalated tensions between the Sahel country and the former colonial power, France, and other members of the international community.

As a result, France says it is preparing an evacuation special flight to repatriate its nationals from Niger.

The French foreign office said: “Given the situation in Niamey, and the violence that took place against our embassy [on Sunday] and the closing of airspace that leaves our citizens without any possibility of leaving the country by their own means, France is preparing to evacuate those of its citizens and European citizens who want to leave the country. The evacuation will begin today.”

The evacuations would last for only a short period.

French citizens and other European nationals have been told to prepare their ID documents, a minimum of small luggage, and water and food as they await departure.

According to media report, there are about 500 to 600 French nationals in Niger. This is fewer than the usual number of about 1,000, but many nationals left earlier this month for school holidays.

Meanwhile, Antonio Tajani, the foreign minister of Italy, has also promised special flights for Italians in the West African country.

“The Italian government has decided to offer our fellow nationals present in Niamey the possibility to leave the city with a special flight for Italy.”

Tajani said the embassy in the capital, Niamey, would “remain open and operative, in particular, to contribute to the mediation efforts underway”.

In recent days, regional leaders, blocs, and supranational organisations have condemned the coup.

These governmental bodies have also sanctioned the country, withdrawing humanitarian and military aid.

On Saturday, July 29, the European Union suspended financial support and cooperation on security with Niger.

Announcing the sanction, Borrell said: “In addition to the immediate cessation of budget support, all cooperation actions in the domain of security are suspended indefinitely with immediate effect.”

France said it is prepared to back sanctions against the perpetrators of a “dangerous” coup in Niger because the power grab did not appear to be definitive.

The African Union issued a 15-day ultimatum to the military officers to return to the barracks and restore the democratic constitution and suspended institutions.

    The Economic Community of West African States Authority of Heads of State and Government (ECOWAS), on Sunday, July 30, also issued a seven-day ultimatum to the Niger Republic military to release and reinstate President Mohammed Bazoum as the legitimate Head of State and government.

    But the junta that seized power dismissed the threats and warned ECOWAS against military intervention.

    The Niger Army said, “We want to once more remind ECOWAS or any other adventurer of our firm determination to defend our homeland.”

    Nigeria’s president, Bola Ahmed Tinubu is the current ECOWAS chairman.

    Beloved John is an investigative reporter with International Centre for Investigative Reporting.

    You can reach her via: [email protected]

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