Niger’s military leaders said Monday that they were ending two European Union security and defence missions in the country, after earlier in the day agreeing to strengthen military cooperation with Russia.
The Nigerien foreign ministry said that it was ending the agreement between Niger and the EU regarding the Niamey-based civilian capacity-building mission called EUCAP Sahel Niger.
The mission, launched in 2012, supports Niger’s internal security forces, authorities and non-governmental actors.
Niger’s foreign ministry also announced in a press statement the “withdrawal by the State of Niger of consent for the deployment of an EU military partnership mission” in Niger.
The military partnership known as EUMPM was launched in February “at the request of the Nigerien authorities”, according to the EU Council website.
It was designed to “enhance the ability of the Niger Armed Forces to contain the terrorist threat,” the website said.
The West African nation is battling two jihadist insurgencies — a spillover in its southeast from a long-running conflict in neighbouring Nigeria, and an offensive in the west by militants crossing from Mali and Burkina Faso.
The country has been ruled by military leaders since the overthrow of elected President Mohamed Bazoum in July, which prompted international condemnation.
The military regime has distanced itself from Niger’s hitherto close European partners, notably France, and has drawn closer to two of its neighbours, Mali and Burkina Faso, which after recent coups are also run by militaries that have chosen to partner with Russia.
– New allies –
Former colonial ruler France has also begun withdrawing its 1,500 troops from Niger following demands by the military leaders after the ousting of Bazoum, a key ally of Paris.
Meanwhile a Russian delegation led by the deputy defence minister met with Niger’s authorities in Niamey on Monday, with the two countries agreeing to strengthen military cooperation.
The trip was the first official visit by a member of the Russian government since the coup in Niger on July 26.
The delegation led by Colonel-General Yunus-Bek Yevkurov was hosted for talks by the head of Niger’s military government General Abdourahamane Tiani.
The parties “signed documents to strengthen military cooperation between the Republic of Niger and the Russian Federation,” according to Nigerien authorities.
The military regimes in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso are all battling long-running jihadist insurgencies and have come together to support the creation of an Alliance of Sahel States, establishing closer economic ties and mutual defence assistance.
Burkina Faso and Niger on Saturday also joined Mali in quitting the G5 anti-jihadist force in Africa’s Sahel region, the latest blow to the fight against insurgents in one of the world’s most troubled zones.
Burkina and Niger “have decided in full sovereignty to quit all instances of the G5 Sahel, including the joint force” as of November 29, the two countries said in a statement.
Only Chad and Mauritania now remain in the G5, whose military deployment is largely financed by the European Union.