Niger suspends cooperation with international Francophone body

NIAMEY (Reuters) – Niger has suspended all cooperation with the international organisation of Francophone nations (OIF), its military leaders said, as it progressively severs ties with former colonial ruler France.

The 88-member body “has always been used by France as an instrument to defend French interests”, said a spokesperson for Niger’s ruling junta on national television late on Sunday.

The junta seized power in a coup in July which was strongly condemned by France and other Western allies. It soon kicked out French troops which had been helping to fight a decade-old Islamist insurgency in the West African country.

The OIF had already suspended most cooperation with Niger last week because of the coup, but said it would maintain those programmes “directly benefiting civilian populations, and those contributing to the restoration of democracy”.

The organisation’s stated mission is to promote the French language, support peace and democracy, and encourage education and development in Francophone countries around the world, many of which are former French colonies.

“The government of Niger calls on the African people to decolonise their minds and promote their own national languages in accordance with the ideas of the founding fathers of Pan-Africanism,” said the junta’s statement.

The junta said in a separate statement on Sunday that it had not yet decided how long it would hold on to power, but that the length of the transition would be determined after an inclusive national dialogue. It did not say when the dialogue would take place.

(Reporting by Boureima Balima; writing by Nellie Peyton; Editing by Gareth Jones)