Europeans evacuated from Niger as neighboring West African juntas warn against intervention

By Joseph Ataman, Larry Madowo, Caitlin Hu, Shirin Faqiri and Sana Noor Haq, CNN

CNN  —  France is preparing to evacuate its citizens from Niger after a presidential coup plunged the West African nation into a political crisis that polarized neighboring countries in the region.

The French Foreign Ministry said it would remove French and European citizens on Tuesday due to the “situation in Niamey,” where pro-military supporters rallied outside the French Embassy in the Nigerien capital to demonstrate against the country’s post-colonial influence.

France will prepare the air evacuation of its citizens Niamey in coordination with Nigerien forces, according to a message from the French embassy to French citizens in Niger seen by CNN.

The operation will take place very shortly and will be completed quickly, the message said, taking advantage of the relative calm in Niamey.

The message instructed French citizens wishing to be evacuated to bring food and water with them while they wait before boarding.

At the same time, Burkina Faso and Mali said in a joint statement that any military intervention against Niger would be considered war on them, after other West African leaders imposed financial and travel penalties against the coup plotters.

“All military intervention against Niger will be considered equivalent to a declaration of war against Burkina Faso and Mali,” the two countries said in a the joint statement on Monday.

The dramatic ouster of President Mohamed Bazoum on Wednesday provoked split reaction from countries in the Sahel region, where the threat of militant extremism in recent years has destabilized local governments and led to volatility.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Sunday issued a stark warning against the military junta and gave it one week to release and reinstate Bazoum, warning they did not rule out the “use of force” if their demands were not met.

West African leaders imposed a travel ban and asset freeze for the military officials involved in the coup attempt, as well as for their family members and the civilians who accept to participate in any institutions or government established by the officials.

France and the European Union also cut off financial aid to Niger following the coup.

Burkina Faso and Mali expressed their solidarity with Nigerien authorites and said they would not participate in any measures against Niger by ECOWAS, calling the sanctions “illegal, illegitimate and inhuman.”

Guinea also expressed its solidarity with Niger on Monday, saying it would not participate in measures against Niger.

A Guinean presidency statement praised the Nigerien public and said “illegitimate and inhumane” sanctions would lead to the disruption of ECOWAS. It went on to warn that a military intervention would result in a human disaster “that could reach far beyond Niger’s borders.”

CNN’s Martin Goillandeau contributed reporting.

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