Niger’s transitional authorities are accusing France of attempting to maintain a presence in the country. Just ten days ago, President Emmanuel Macron announced the withdrawal of French troops by the end of the year. However, according to the junta and the head of the transitional government, French military forces are currently destabilizing Niger.
On Tuesday, ministers from the CNSP junta and Prime Minister Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine met with representatives of Niger’s civil society. The Prime Minister claimed that France had already started destabilizing the country.
Ali Mahaman referred to a brief video that has been widely circulated on social media in recent days. The video features an excerpt from an appearance by Vincent Crouzet on the French channel LCI. Crouzet is a writer known for several espionage novels and has indeed worked with French foreign intelligence services in the past. This was sufficient for Prime Minister Lamine Zeine as evidence of a destabilization operation by France.
During the meeting, Interior Minister Brigadier General Mohamed Toumba went further, suggesting that French troops could be complicit with terrorist armed groups. He expressed surprise at the “new weapons” used by these groups, equipment that “the French enemies could have provided them,” he said.
He claimed that the number of French soldiers on the ground was not 1,500, as officially stated, but more than double, “over 3,000, even 3,500,” with the aim of “making Nigeriens turn against each other by creating chaos and discord.” General Toumba assured that with the departure of French soldiers, the territory “will be freed from jihadists within six months.”
All these accusations follow the deaths of at least 60 Nigerien soldiers killed in attacks in the northern Tillaberi and Tahoua regions on Monday. The Nigerien Interior Minister emphasized that France is “not in a mindset to leave Niger.” He demands the departure of French troops, but not towards Benin, an ally of France, with whom the junta has tense relations.
The French military headquarters in Paris has declined to comment on the accusations. French authorities only reiterate that all their troops will have left Niger by the end of the year, in line with President Emmanuel Macron’s statements on September 24.