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UK reduces staff numbers at Niger embassy in face of unrest after military coup

Britain is reducing the number of staff at its embassy in Niger following last week’s military coup amid the threat of pro-junta demonstrations.

It comes after the US ordered the partial evacuation of its diplomatic post in the country’s capital Niamey in response to the takeover by the army and the toppling of the democratically elected government led by Mohamed Bazoum.

France and Italy have already announced plans to fly their citizens out of Niger.

Pro-junta demonstrators gathered outside the French embassy, try to set it on fire before being dispersed by Nigerien security forces in Niamey, the capital city of Niger July 30, 2023. REUTERS/Souleymane Ag Anara REFILE – CORRECTING NATIONALITY NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES
Demonstrators previously targeted the French embassy

In a statement, the UK Foreign Office said: “There has been a military takeover in Niger, which has led to protests and unrest.”


With a further pro-junta demonstration planned to mark Niger’s independence from France, which ruled the country as a colony until 1960, it added: “Protests can be violent and the situation could change quickly without warning.”

A previous rally led to an attack on the French embassy with its doors set on fire and the building stoned.

Meanwhile, Niger’s neighbours Mali and Burkina Faso have warned other neighbouring nations against military intervention against the mutineers.

The West African regional body – known as ECOWAS – has previously threatened the use of force if coup leaders in Niger do not reinstate the country’s elected president.

But Mali and Burkina Faso, themselves both run by military governments, have said they will consider any direct intervention in Niger as a “declaration of war” against them.

A map showing the ECOWAS area and its suspended members

The two countries – who are both currently suspended from ECOWAS – have also denounced the regional body’s economic sanctions against Niger as “illegal, illegitimate and inhumane” and have refused to apply them.

What is ECOWAS?

Standing for the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS is a trade bloc consisting of West African nations.

Set up in 1975, and headquartered in Nigeria, its main aim is to make its member states, the majority of which are former French, British and Portuguese colonies, self-sufficient.

But ECOWAS also serves as a peacekeeping force in the region, with members able to send joint forces to intervene at times of unrest.

Though the bloc currently has 15 members, four countries, Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea and Niger, are currently suspended following military coups.

ECOWAS suspended all commercial and financial transactions between its member states and Niger, as well as freezing Nigerien assets held in regional central banks, in the wake of the putsch.

Guinea, another country under military rule since 2021, has also shared its support of Niger’s junta and urged ECOWAS to “come to its senses”.

Read more:
Coups across the Sahel region explained
How Wagner is providing cover for Putin in Niger

Toppled Niger government encouraged French strikes to free president, junta claims

The Russian mercenary group Wagner is already operating in neighbouring Mali and its boss Yevgeny Prigozhin has hailed the coup and offered his fighters’ services.

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Head of coup becomes Niger’s leader

The takeover has been widely condemned by international partners including the US, the United Nations, and the European Union.

They have all refused to recognise self-declared head of state General Abdourahamane Tiani and demanded the restoration of the government.

Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world, receiving close to $2bn (£1.6bn) a year in official development assistance, according to the World Bank.

It is also a security ally of France and the US, which both use it as a base to fight an Islamist insurgency in West and Central Africa’s wider Sahel region.


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