Paris, Aug 2 (EFE).- The second of three flights evacuating French citizens and other foreign nationals from Niger following last week’s military coup has landed in France, the French foreign ministry said Wednesday.
Some 350 French nationals, as well as citizens from Germany, Portugal, Belgium, the United States, Canada and others have been evacuated from the former French colony.
Around 600 French citizens have said they want to leave Niger following the coup on Jul. 26 that ousted the African country’s democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum.
A third flight is due to arrive in France later on Wednesday.
The approximately 1,500 French soldiers currently stationed in Niger to support the country in the fight against terrorism are not scheduled to be evacuated, French authorities added.
The decision to evacuate came after several hundred people gathered in front of the French embassy on Sunday in the Niger capital Niamey, where they torched French flags and chanted anti-European slogans.
Italian foreign minister Antonio Tajani, who went to the airport on Wednesday morning to welcome 36 Italian nationals who were evacuated, said his country was opposed to any “Western military initiative” to quell the unrest in the West African nation, for fears such a move would be “perceived as a new colonization.” On that flight were 31 other foreign nationals, including 21 Americans.
The South Korean government has also urged its citizens in Niger to leave due to the “rapid deterioration of law and order”.
Meanwhile, the junta behind the coup d’état on Tuesday night announced the reopening of land and air borders with Algeria, Burkina Faso, Libya, Mali and Chad, which had been closed since the coup a week ago.
Niger is facing financial sanctions imposed by the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) which gave the junta a one-week ultimatum on Sunday to restore constitutional order.
Ecowas military leaders were due to meet in the Nigerian capital Abuja from Wednesday until Friday to “discuss the political situation” in Niger, the 15-nation bloc said in a brief statement.
The West African group has not ruled out a military intervention against the junta unless the deposed president Bazoum is reinstated.
However, Mali and Burkina Faso – which are also ruled by military juntas – have opposed the move, arguing that any military intervention in Niger would amount to a declaration of war against them as well.
The United Nations has backed Ecowas’s response to the coup, but UN envoy for West Africa and the Sahel, Leonardo Santos Simão, said Monday that he is confident that ongoing diplomatic efforts will mean “the use of force will not be necessary.”
The coup in Niger was led by the National Council for the Safeguarding of the Homeland (CLSP), which announced the removal of the president, the suspension of institutions, the closure of borders and a nocturnal curfew until further notice.
Niger is now the fourth West African country to be led by a military junta, after coups in Mali, Guinea-Conakry and Burkina Faso between 2020 and 2022. EFE