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Escalation of Niger Crisis as European Countries Initiate Evacuations, Coup Leaders Garner Support from Similar Regimes

by Ethan Kim
1 comment
Niger crisis

On Wednesday, a military transport plane from France arrived in Paris, carrying European nationals evacuated from Niger. This was the first evacuation mission conducted since a group of rebellious soldiers overthrew the democratically elected president of the country nearly a week ago, enforcing a border closure.

France, Spain, and Italy have all declared evacuations from Niger for their citizens as well as other Europeans, concerned about the risk of being stranded amid the coup. The coup has been endorsed by three other West African countries, themselves under the rule of insubordinate soldiers.

Around 600 French and 400 people of other European nationalities, including Belgians and Danes, are seeking to leave the country, according to French officials. The inaugural flight was mostly occupied by French citizens, and the officials aim to complete the evacuation missions by the end of Wednesday.

Despite Niger’s airspace being shut, France managed to negotiate the evacuations with the current regime that deposed the country’s leader, while continuing to support the democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum, as stated by diplomatic officials.

The French ministry acknowledged the recent violence against its embassy in Niamey, Niger’s capital, as one of the motivations for initiating evacuation flights for its citizens and other Europeans. The Defense Ministry of Spain has announced plans to evacuate over 70 of its citizens, and Italy is also organizing an evacuation flight.

The evacuation comes amid the escalating crisis triggered by last week’s coup against President Bazoum. His apparent overthrow presents a setback for Western countries who were collaborating with Niger to counter extremism in West Africa.

As Europeans and other nationalities, including some Americans, packed their bags in Niamey’s hotels, hundreds of people awaited their turn at the airport to leave on French evacuation flights.

A former French military official, now training the Nigerien army as a civilian, revealed to The Big Big News that he is leaving although his mission isn’t completed. Speaking anonymously due to security concerns, he expressed that the military takeover caught many off guard.

On Sunday, ECOWAS, the West African regional body, declared travel and economic sanctions against Niger and threatened to use force if the coup leaders don’t reinstate Bazoum within a week.

Leonardo Santos Simão, the U.N. special envoy for West Africa and the Sahel, remains hopeful of avoiding bloodshed. He anticipates ECOWAS to deploy troops to Niger if Bazoum isn’t reinstated, but also hopes that it won’t be necessary if all parties negotiate in good faith.

The new junta in Niger received support from the military governments of Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea. Mali and Burkina Faso have condemned ECOWAS’ economic sanctions as “illegal, illegitimate and inhumane,” and declared that any military intervention against Niger would be considered a war declaration.

ECOWAS suspended all commercial and financial transactions between Niger and its member states and froze Nigerien assets in regional central banks. Niger heavily depends on foreign aid, and these sanctions could further impoverish its population of over 25 million.

The French Embassy faced violent incidents on Sunday, leading to the evacuation. Pro-junta supporters took to Niamey’s streets, with some demonstrators expressing anti-Western sentiments and waving Russian flags.

Niger’s unfolding crisis could potentially embolden jihadist violence, according to some. Boubacar Moussa, a former member of an al-Qaida linked group, explained that the military overthrow could weaken the army and strengthen jihadists.

The possible use of force by ECOWAS could trigger civil strife, as per Niger analysts. Niger’s Prime Minister Ouhoumoudou Mahamadou, appointed by Bazoum and abroad when the coup occurred, has urged international help to restore democracy in West Africa.

Niger is a critical country for Africa’s and global security, as noted by observers. The location of Bazoum post-coup remains unclear, with the first photos since the incident showing him smiling beside Chad President Mahamat Deby, who flew in to mediate.

Both the US and France, former colonial power of Niger until 1960, have offered significant military and humanitarian aid in recent years. If the coup succeeds, the US State Department has hinted at cutting off aid, stating that it depends on Niger’s continued democratic governance.


Journalists John Leicester from Paris, Ciaran Giles from Madrid, Cara Anna from Nairobi, and Kirsten Grieshaber from Berlin contributed to the story.


The story has been corrected to adjust the name order and affiliation of jihadi member to Boubacar Moussa, a former member of an al-Qaida linked group known as JNIM.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Niger crisis

Who are the European nationals being evacuated from Niger?

These are citizens of France, Spain, and Italy as well as other European nationals who have been living or working in Niger.

What is the cause of the evacuation of European nationals from Niger?

The evacuations have been prompted by the military coup in Niger that resulted in the overthrow of the country’s democratically elected president, Mohamed Bazoum, and the subsequent border closure.

Which countries are supporting the coup in Niger?

The military-led governments of Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea have expressed support for the coup leaders in Niger.

What actions has ECOWAS taken in response to the coup in Niger?

The West African regional body known as ECOWAS has announced travel and economic sanctions against Niger and threatened the use of force if the deposed President Bazoum is not reinstated within a week.

What are the potential consequences of the coup for Niger’s citizens?

With Niger relying heavily on foreign aid, ECOWAS’ sanctions could further impoverish the country’s population of over 25 million. The coup might also lead to an increase in jihadist violence and possible civil strife.

How has the U.S. responded to the situation in Niger?

The U.S. has expressed that if the coup succeeds, it may consider cutting off aid to Niger, as it hinges on the country’s continued democratic governance.

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1 comment

MarieS August 2, 2023 - 11:51 am

Why is it that the people who suffer the most from these coups are always the everyday citizens?? #PrayforNiger

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