France announces airlift evacuation plans out of Niger after military coup

Pro-Junta supporters hold Russian flags and anti-France signs in Niger's capital, Niamey.
Niger's government was overthrown last week. Credit: AP

France has announced it will begin to evacuate its own and other European citizens from Niger after a military Junta overthrew the country's government.

Those looking to leave have been told to pack no more than one small bag each along with water, food, phones and batteries.

On Tuesday, France's Foreign Ministry said it would be immediately enacting evacuation flights, after supporters of the Junta marched on the French embassy, in Niger's capital, Niamey.

The ministry added the closure of Niger's airspace had influenced its decision as it had left people "unable to leave the country by their own means".

Several hundred French nationals are believed to be stranded in Niger - a former French colony.

Last week, Niger President Mohamed Bazoum was overthrown by a military coup. Leaders of the Junta have said they took action over President Bazoum's inability to secure the nation against growing jihadi violence.

Travel and economic sanctions against Niger have already been announced by West Africa's regional body ECOWAS.

Leaders of the group have threatened to use force if President Bazoum - who is believed to be under house arrest - is not reinstated as Niger's leader within a week.

But, in a joint statement, the military governments of Mali and Burkina Faso have said "any military intervention against Niger will be considered as a declaration of war" against both countries. Guinea has also expressed support for Niger's coup.

Niger President Mohamed Bazoum is believed to be under house arrest. Credit: AP

Mali and Burkina Faso have each undergone two coups since 2020, amidst a struggle to deal with the rise of jihadi violence linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group.

Both countries are currently suspended from ECOWAS.

Humanitarian groups have raised concerns about the potential impact of the ECOWAS sanctions on Niger. The country relies heavily on foreign aid to support its population of around 25 million people.

Last Sunday, thousands of pro-Junta supporters took to the streets in Niamey, denouncing France, waving Russian flags and chanting Russian President Vladimir Putin's name.

The protests were eventually dispersed by the Nigerien army.

Pro-Junta supporters protest in Niger's capital, Niamey. Credit: AP

Currently, it is not clear if the Junta will look to align Niger with Moscow or re-establish terms with Western partners.

The UK and United States are among the countries to condemn the coup, whilst calling for the immediate release of President Bazoum and his family.

Alongside France, America has sent hundreds of millions of dollars of military and humanitarian aid to Niger in recent years.

The West view Niger as the last country to be working in that part of Africa against extremists and militant groups, including the Russian private army, Wagner Group.

Mercenaries from the group have been working in Mali and Burkina Faso, following their respective coups.

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