Hundreds of French and European evacuees gathered at the airport in Niger’s capital, Niamey, on Tuesday following a presidential coup that has plunged the West African nation into a political crisis. Two Airbus A330 planes dispatched by France arrived at the airport to bring French nationals and citizens from other European Union member states back to Paris. A third plane may be sent later if needed.
French nationals formed a queue with their suitcases outside the airport, supervised and organized by the French army. Most of the evacuees expressed sadness at leaving. The French Foreign Minister stated that several hundred French and European citizens will be evacuated from Niger, with hopes of completing the operation within 24 hours.
The evacuation was prompted by the situation in Niamey, where pro-military supporters demonstrated outside the French Embassy against the country’s post-colonial influence. In a message to French citizens in Niger, the French embassy instructed those wishing to be evacuated to bring food and water with them while they wait before boarding.
Italy, Germany, and Spain also announced plans to evacuate their citizens from Niger. Burkina Faso and Mali issued a joint statement, asserting that any military intervention against Niger would be considered a declaration of war against them. ECOWAS, the Economic Community of West African States, warned the military junta to release and reinstate the ousted president within one week, threatening the use of force if their demands were not met. ECOWAS imposed travel bans and asset freezes on coup participants and their families.
France, the European Union, and ECOWAS have also cut off financial aid to Niger following the coup. Burkina Faso, Mali, and Guinea expressed solidarity with Niger, refusing to participate in sanctions imposed by ECOWAS. The situation remains tense as neighboring countries grapple with the aftermath of the coup and the potential for further instability in the region.