By Enyichukwu Enemanna
Niger has suspended all cooperation with the International Organisation of Francophone nations (OIF) for being used by France to defend French interest, the country’s military leaders said on Sunday.
This comes as the West African nation progressively severs ties with former colonial ruler France following the escalating tension between both countries since military takeover in July.
The 88-member body “has always been used by France as an instrument to defend French interests”, a spokesperson for Niger’s military government said on national television late on Sunday.
France last week announced its decision to shut down its embassy in Niger, saying its diplomats can no longer operate there.
The military seized power in a coup in July, which was strongly condemned by France and other Western allies.
The junta soon kicked out French troops which had been helping to fight a decade-old jihadists in the 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 government’s statement.
The government 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.
France and other western countries have repeatedly called for reinstatement of Mohamed Bazoum as the President and release of his wife and son. The trio have been in detention at the presidential palace in the capital since the coup.