The French authorities wish to end Wednesday, August 2 at midday the evacuation operations by plane of civilians from Niger, which began Tuesday evening after the putsch of last week.
Four planes have so far been planned to evacuate civilians, mostly French. This is the first massive evacuation organized by Paris in the Sahel where coups have multiplied since 2020. A first plane took off from Niamey on Tuesday evening and landed, shortly after 23:30 GMT, at Paris airport -Roissy Charles de Gaulle.
Paris justifies the evacuation by the “violence that took place” against its embassy on Sunday during a demonstration hostile to France, and by “the closure of airspace which leaves our compatriots without the possibility of leaving the country by their own resources”.
Niamey, through the voice of a putschist, however announced on the night of Tuesday to Wednesday the reopening of “land and air borders” of Niger with five neighboring countries (Algeria, Burkina Faso, Libya, Mali and Chad).
“There are 262 people on board the plane, which is an Airbus A330, including a dozen babies,” French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said on Tuesday evening, explaining that “almost all of the passengers are compatriots. “.
In addition to a large majority of French people, Nigeriens, Portuguese, Belgians, Ethiopians and Lebanese also landed, the Quai d’Orsay told the press present in Roissy.
The evacuation was “well organised, it was fairly quick, for me everything went very well”, testified Bernard, who has been working for the European Union in Niger for two months. “In Niamey, there are no particular tensions in the city, no particular stress, the population goes about its business,” described this man, who did not give his name, who left with the bare minimum.
A second flight was to land overnight, with French, Nigerians, Germans, Belgians, Canadians, Americans, Austrians and Indians on board, according to the French Foreign Ministry.
Of the approximately 1,200 French people registered on the consular lists in Niger, according to Paris, 600 nationals would like to return to France.
The evacuation of French soldiers posted in Niger is on the other hand “not on the agenda”, had previously indicated to the press the staff of the French armies.
“No need for them”
The German Foreign Ministry recommended during the day “to all its nationals in Niamey”, to accept France’s offer, when Italy announced that it was ready to evacuate its nationals from Niamey.
In the Nigerien capital, after heavy rains on Tuesday morning, activities had resumed on Tuesday and few security force vehicles were visible. “We have no problems with the French”, nor with “European nationals, we have problems with European governments”, assures Hamidou Ali, a 58-year-old Nigerian. A student, Mahamadou Issoufou Idi, judges him that “the French have only to leave”.
France, a former colonial power in the region and unfailing support of President Mohamed Bazoum, who has been detained since July 26 in his presidential residence, appears to be the preferred target of the soldiers who overthrew him, led by General Abdourahamane Tiani.
The M62 movement, at the initiative of a pro-coup demonstration, denounced on Tuesday the evacuation organized by France, wishing the suspension of some of its media and calling for a “peaceful rally every day” near the airport. , “until the final departure of the foreign forces” present in the country.
” Declaration of war “
The junta accused France on Monday of wanting to “intervene militarily”, which Paris strongly denied.
On Monday evening, Burkina Faso and Mali, neighbors of Niger and also governed by the military, showed their solidarity with the putschists by affirming that any military intervention to restore Mohamed Bazoum would be considered “as a declaration of war” on their two countries. and would lead to their withdrawal from ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States).
They added that they refused to apply the “illegal, illegitimate and inhuman sanctions against the people and the authorities of Niger” decided on Sunday by ECOWAS in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria.
West African leaders, backed by their Western partners, including France, have given the military junta in Niger a one-week ultimatum for a “full return to constitutional order”, claiming not to rule out a “recourse to strength” if this was not the case. In this context, ECOWAS announced Tuesday evening that the chiefs of staff of the countries that compose it would meet from Wednesday to Friday in Abuja, about the putsch in Niger.
In addition, a delegation from ECOWAS, led by the Nigerian Abdulsalami Abubakar, is due to go to Niger on Wednesday, a senior official of the West African organization and a military official from Niger said on condition of anonymity.