Thousands of protesters Saturday gathered outside a French military base in Niger’s capital Niamey demanding that its troops leave the West African country
The call comes amid the widespread popular support for the July 26 coup d’etat that ousted President Mohamed Bazoum.
However, Paris has refused to recognise the junta.
The country new military rulers have accused the former colonial power of “interference”.
The protesters gathered near a military base housing French soldiers after a call by several civic organisations hostile to the French military presence. They held up banners proclaiming, “French army, leave our country.”
Niger’s military government, which seized power on July 26, has accused French President Emmanuel Macron of using divisive rhetoric in his comments about the coup and seeking to impose a neocolonial relationship with its former colony.
Macron has backed deposed President Mohamed Bazoum and refused to recognise Niger’s new rulers. Sylvain Itte, France’s ambassador, has remained in Niger, despite a 48-hour deadline to leave the country given more than a week ago, a decision Macron said he “applauds”.
According to Al Jazeera, outside the military base on Saturday, protesters slit the throat of a goat dressed in French colors and carried coffins draped in French flags as a line of Nigerien soldiers looked on. Others carried signs calling for France to leave.
Al Jazeera reports that it was the biggest gathering yet since the coup, suggesting that support for the junta — and derision of France — was not waning.
“We are ready to sacrifice ourselves today, because we are proud,” said demonstrator Yacouba Issoufou. “They plundered our resources, and we became aware. So, they’re going to get out.”
By early evening local time, there had been no apparent outbreaks of violence.
France had cordial relations with ousted President Bazoum and has about 1,500 troops stationed in Niger.
On Friday, French President Emmanuel Macron said he spoke to Bazoum every day and that “the decisions we will take, whatever they may be, will be based upon exchanges with Bazoum.”
Niger’s junta denounced the comments as divisive and served only to perpetrate France’s neo-colonial relationship.
France is not the only country with concerns. West Africa’s regional bloc the Economic Community of West African States has slapped sanctions on Niger and threatened military action as a last resort. The United States and European powers also have troops stationed in the country.
Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu, who holds ECOWAS’ revolving chairmanship, said last week that a nine-month transition back to civilian rule could satisfy regional powers.