France is not preparing air strikes against Niger to retain its economic influence in the country

By: John Faerseth
August 18 2023

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France is not preparing air strikes against Niger to retain its economic influence in the country


The Verdict False

There is no evidence France or Germany are planning airstrikes against Niger.

Claim ID 01b813e2


According to a widely shared video on Facebook, there are rumors that France is preparing air strikes on Niger, backed by Germany. The reason given is that Niger is one of six countries in West Africa that uses the CFA franc as their currency and pays a 50 percent tax on all export incomes. The junta wants Niger to be free of France’s economic grip. 

France prints currency – the CFA franc - for six African countries, including Niger. Participation in this currency is voluntary. Until recently, countries using the CFA franc were required to pool 50 percent of their foreign exchange reserves – not their exports – with two African central banks, which then deposited them with the French treasury. Since a December 2019 reform, this is no longer the case.

In fact

On July 26, 2023, Niger's democratically elected government was overthrown in a coup orchestrated by elements in the country's armed forces. Soon after, the new junta accused France of planning military strikes to free the deposed president Mohamed Bazoum and overturn the coup. The generals claimed that foreign minister Hassoumi Massoudou, who remained loyal to the president and declared himself acting head of state, had signed a document at the request of France giving France permission to carry out strikes on the presidential building in the Nigeran capital Niamey.

On August 9, the junta claimed that a French aircraft had breached the country’s airspace, which it had closed. According to the junta, a French plane had taken off from N’Djamena in Chad at 6.01 a.m. and then cut off all contact with air traffic control while inside Niger’s air space. French authorities denied the allegations and stated that the flight was authorized and coordinated with the Nigeran Army.

Neither France nor Germany has signaled any intention to intervene. 

Idrissa Abdoulaye, university lecturer at the University of Leiden, is clear that France has not ordered any air strikes. 

“Anyone who knows the context will immediately understand that this is as grotesque a claim as they can get. The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs quickly issued a denial and explained that the related claim that France violated Niger's airspace closure was false since the French aircraft received authorization to land,” he said to Logically Facts. 

Abdoulaye continues: “Why was the junta lying through their teeth? That was part of a demagogic attempt to exploit the anti-French feelings in the populace, and buttress their position and legitimacy as coup-makers. They were taking a leaf out of the playbook of the juntas in Mali and Burkina who did the same thing in the past.” 

Maren Sæbø, a Norwegian journalist who has covered conflicts in Africa, says that while she did not follow the August 9 incident, this is not the first time the Nigerian junta has permitted flights despite officially closing the airspace. 

“Anyone who has followed Flightradar since the junta declared the airspace closed knows that there have been several inbound and outbound flights as well as flyovers. Dignitaries from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOVAC) have flown to Niamey, and so has acting U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland. French and American military flights have also continued to serve the bases that still exist in Niger, obviously with permission from the authorities. They have also continued to fly across Nigeran airspace, which means they have been allowed to do so.” 

Sæbø says there are also signs on the ground that there have been inbound and outbound flights, but adds that the situation is difficult to follow because of the large amounts of misinformation, not least on social media.

The verdict

There is no evidence France has planned air strikes. There have also been several civilian and military flights to and from Niger and flyovers that the junta has permitted despite the official flight ban. We have therefore rated this claim as false.

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