Tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered on Saturday outside a French military installation in the capital Niamey, Niger, calling for the withdrawal of its troops following a military coup that has received broad popular support but is not recognised by Paris.
The coup on July 26, the eighth in West and Central Africa since 2020, has drawn attention from international powers that fear a regional shift towards military control.
The country most affected is France, whose power over its former colonies in West Africa has decreased recently along with an increase in public animosity. Following coups in adjacent Mali and Burkina Faso, its forces were driven out, which diminished its influence in the battle against lethal Islamist insurgencies throughout the area.
Since the coup, anti-French sentiment has grown in Niger, but it worsened last week when France disregarded the junta’s directive for its ambassador, Sylvain Itte, to depart. The military has been told to remove him, according to the junta.
A queue of Nigerien soldiers watched as demonstrators cut the throat of a goat wearing French flags outside the military base on Saturday. They also brought coffins covered in French flags. Others carried placards demanding France’s withdrawal.
According to Reuters correspondents, it was the largest assembly since the coup, indicating that junta support and contempt for France were not abating.Yacouba Issoufou, a demonstrator, declared, “We are ready to sacrifice ourselves today because we are proud.” “They looted our stuff, and we found out. Thus, they will depart.”As of early evening local time, no violent incidents appeared to have broken out.
France maintained friendly ties with the deposed President Mohamed Bazoum and maintains a garrison of roughly 1,500 soldiers in Niger.
Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, declared on Friday that “the decisions we will take, whatever they may be, will be based upon exchanges with Bazoum.” Macron claimed to have daily conversations with Bazoum.The remarks were condemned by the junta in Niger as dividing and perpetuating France’s neo-colonial ties.
It’s not just France that has worries. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has imposed sanctions on Niger and issued a last-resort military action warning.
There are also troops from the United States and Europe stationed there.The revolving chairman of ECOWAS, President Bola Tinubu of Nigeria, stated last week that regional powers could be satisfied with a nine-month return to civilian administration.The junta in Niger had already suggested a three-year schedule.