“The people of Nigeria will now dictate the shape of future relations with France,” General Abdourahamane Tiani said Saturday night in two interviews in local languages, one in Djerma, the other in Hausa, on national television Tele Sahel.
The remarks came a week after the French president announced the departure of Niamey ambassador Sylvain Itté, who returned to Paris on Wednesday, and that “by the end of the year” about 1,500 French troops are in Niger as part of the fight against jihadists.
The Nigerian regime ordered the expulsion of the diplomat and canceled military cooperation agreements with Paris, repeating that it wanted the withdrawal of French troops.
“We are preparing for their departure,” General Tiani said.
The military regime has been at odds with France since a July 26 coup that ousted elected President Mohamed Bazoum, an ally of the former colonial power. This does not recognize the new authorities of Niger.
“As they (the French) were there to fight terrorism and they unilaterally stopped all cooperation (…) their stay in Niger has come to an end,” said Abdourahamane Tiani.
“They said they came to help eradicate terrorism. Not only did they not drive away the terrorists, but the terrorists are more and more numerous,” he complained.
The country has been undermined in the west and southeast by recurring jihadist attacks by groups linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.
For his part, French Armed Forces Minister Sébastien Lecornu assessed on Friday that “the Sahel risks collapsing in on itself”, following the departure of French soldiers from Mali and Burkina Faso – also led by soldiers – and soon from Niger.
“We were the solution for the security of the Sahel,” he insisted.
General Tiani once again justified the coup by jihadist attacks.
“The country was in danger of disappearing one day, so we decided to take action because the people (in power under Bazoum) did not listen to their military advisers,” he said.
France, moreover, “is not the only country with which we have cultural relations,” he added, reacting to Paris’ suspension of visas from Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali.
The problem is “not democracy”
“We don’t have the right to spend five years in power, for that you have to be elected”, he assured on Saturday evening, a few weeks after he announced the transition of a maximum of three years.
According to Mr. To Tiani, “the problem is not democracy, sometimes there are elected figures who twist their necks with texts to do what they want.”
He also justified the coup by “wasting public funds” by former leaders.
In this regard, the regime announced the creation of an anti-corruption commission.
Mr. Tiani recalled the establishment of a “national dialogue” to write new texts that regulate the political life of Nigeria.
Since the coup, Niger has been subject to political and economic sanctions by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which has threatened the country with armed intervention.
According to General Tiani, this organization “did not even try” to “know the reasons” for the coup. He regrets that “the population suffers from the embargo”.
Criticized by Western and African countries, the Nigerian regime has found new allies, Mali and Burkina.
Mr. Tiani recalled that he had established defense cooperation with them, the Alliance of Sahelian States (AES), specifying that “later there will be an economic agreement”.
Mr Bazoum, imprisoned after the coup in his presidential residence, and to whom Emmanuel Macron reaffirmed his support, appealed to the ECOWAS Court of Justice for his release.
By Le360 Africa (with AFP)
10.01.2023 at 15:08