Niger coup: Gen Tiani claims control of country but faces sanctions

President of France Emmanuel Macron says he is prepared to back measures against coup leader

Gen Abdourahamane Tiani addresses national Niger TV after the military claimed to have ousted President Mohamed Bazoum. AFP
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French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday said he was prepared to support sanctions against the perpetrators of a "dangerous" coup in Niger, after his foreign minister said the power grab did not appear to be "definitive".

Niger state TV has declared Gen Abdourahmane Tiani as the leader of the soldiers who staged the coup.

France, which was once a colonial power in Niger, has about 1,500 soldiers in the country supporting its military.

If Wednesday's coup in the capital Niamey succeeds, French troops could be forced to withdraw from the city, diplomats and analysts said.

"This coup d'etat is completely illegitimate, extremely dangerous for Nigeriens, for Niger and the entire region," Mr Macron told a news conference in Papua New Guinea.

The coup was widely condemned on Thursday and Mr Macron said he would support West African regional bloc Ecowas should it decide to impose sanctions on those behind it.

"If you hear me say attempted coup d'etat, it's because we don't consider that things are definitive," French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said, also from Papua New Guinea.

Mr Macron said he had spoken to Niger President Mohamed Bazoum, who is being held in his palace, and called for him to be reinstated.

France has another 1,000 troops based in Chad – which borders Niger – where it has been less critical of a delayed transition to civilian rule after a coup in 2021.

Uranium interests

France has been met with a growing wave of resentment towards its influence in the Sahel, anger that anti-western elements have sought to stoke. Yevgeny Prigozhin, boss of Russian mercenaries the Wagner Group on Friday hailed the coup as a liberation from Niger's western colonisers, although Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov insisted constitutional order should be restored.

Since Wednesday, a spate of anti-French rhetoric in Niger has sought to foment anger against Paris over its activities in the African nation, including accusing it of pillaging resources to fuel its nuclear reactors.

French nuclear company Orano operates uranium mining sites in Niger's north, an area prone to security threats.

It said on Friday its operations were continuing as normal and that French nuclear power plants source less than 10 per cent of their uranium from Niger.

Orano has questioned whether mining it there remains commercially viable.

Updated: August 02, 2023, 4:58 AM