French President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday that he spoke on a daily basis with Niger’s President Mohamed Bazoum, who has been removed from power in a coup.
“I speak every day to President Bazoum. We support him. We do not recognise those who carried out the putsch. The decisions we will take, whatever they may be, will be based upon exchanges with Bazoum,” said Macron.
Macron’s comments were published on the Elysee’s social media platform and were made as he spoke about educational matters to reporters in southern France.
Earlier Friday, Niger’s military junta, which seized power on July 26, accused Macron of using divisive rhetoric in his comments about the coup and of seeking to perpetrate France’s neo–colonial relationship with its former colony.
Macron’s comments in supporting Bazoum “constitute further blatant interference in Niger’s domestic affairs,” the regime’s spokesman Colonel Amadou Abdramane said in a statement read on nationwide TV.
Relations with France, the country’s former colonial power and ally in its fight against jihadism, went swiftly downhill after Paris stood by Bazoum, who was a close ally of France.
The Sahel state is also embroiled in a standoff with the West African bloc ECOWAS, which has threatened to intervene militarily if diplomatic pressure to return the elected Bazoum to office fails.
‘Partnership approach’ with ECOWAS
On Monday, Macron said, “I call on all the states in the region to adopt a responsible policy.”
France, he said, “supports (ECOWAS’) diplomatic action and, when it so decides, (its) military” action, he said, describing this as “a partnership approach.”
He paid further tribute to Bazoum, hailing him as a “principled, democratically elected and courageous man.”
Abdramane said Niger’s “differences” with France “do not touch on the relationship between our peoples, or on individuals, but on the relevance of the French military presence in Niger.”
France has around 1,500 troops in Niger, many of them stationed at an airbase near the capital, who are deployed to help fight a bloody jihadist insurgency.
A week earlier, the regime gave French ambassador Sylvain Itte 48 hours to leave the country.
France refused, saying that the military rulers had no legal authority to make the demand.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, Reuters)