Niger Prime Minister Ouhoumoudou Mahamadou, who has been stuck outside the country since last week’s coup, appealed to the international community on Tuesday to help his country restore democracy.
Speaking to The Associated Press in Paris, Mahamadou said that Niger should be considered crucial for strengthening democracy in West Africa and protecting countries to the south “against the spread of terrorism.”
The West African regional body known as ECOWAS announced travel and economic sanctions against Niger on Sunday and said it could use force if the coup leaders refused to reinstate Niger’s democratically elected president, Mohamed Bazoum, within one week.
Mahamadou said the sanctions would be a "catastrophe" for Niger.
On Tuesday France, Italy and Spain announced evacuations from Niger for their citizens and other European nationals.
Mahamadou's government was one of the West’s last democratic partners against West African extremists.
“Niger is a key country in terms of security for the rest of Africa, but also for the rest of the world,” he stressed.
Both the United States and France have sent troops and hundreds of millions of dollars of military and humanitarian aid in recent years to Niger.
The current instability in the country ultimately “could encourage … the further development of insecurity linked to jihadists,” Mahamadou warned.
"Because if the armed forces are preoccupied with issues other than ensuring the country’s security, you can understand that this will enable the jihadists to move forward on the ground.”
Still, the prime minister said he wants to remain “optimistic” about the possibility for Niger to regain democracy and avoid an ECOWAS military intervention.
He said he remains in touch with Bazoum and that the president “is certainly a hostage,” but also that he is in “good spirits” and “ready to face the situation.”
Mahamadou said he believed the coup leaders would heed the ECOWAS call to restore Bazoum rather than face the threat of military intervention, because they are “patriots.”