The demonstrators gathered outside a French military base, calling on the ambassador and about 1,500 soldiers to leave.
Thousands of people demonstrated in the Nigerian capital, Niamey, demanding that France withdraw its ambassador and troops from the West African country, whose new military rulers have accused Niger’s former colonial ruler of “interfering”.
The demonstrators gathered near a base housing French soldiers, after calling on several civil organizations hostile to the French military presence. They held banners reading, “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 statements about the coup and seeking to impose a neocolonial relationship with its former colony.
Macron supports ousted President Mohamed Bazoum and refuses to recognize the new rulers. France’s ambassador, Sylvain Etty, remained in Niger despite a 48-hour deadline to leave the country more than a week ago, a decision Macron said he “applauds”.
Ahmed Idriss, Al Jazeera correspondent from Niamey, said that the demonstrators, who are expressing their frustration with the continued French presence in the country, have begun to take matters into their own hands.
According to security personnel, the protest was scheduled to start around 3 pm (14:00 GMT), but thousands of protesters had already gathered by 10 am (09:00 GMT), surprising the police and security forces.
Idris said the protests over the past few days were “relatively calm and orderly”, but on Saturday, demonstrators were seen “breaking barriers set up by the security forces, police and army” and approaching the army. base with some trying to force their way in.
Since then, the army has reinforced the area around the French base, which houses about 1,500 French soldiers, and warned against entering by force and the repercussions that would follow.
“I speak every day with President Bazoum”: Macron
The military rulers accused Paris of “blatant interference” by supporting Bazoum, who has been detained since the July 26 coup.
Colonel Amadou Abderrahmane said in a statement read by national television that Macron’s statements in support of Bazoum “constitute further blatant interference in Niger’s internal affairs”.
Macron said on Friday that he had spoken daily with Bazoum since he was removed from power.
“We support him. We do not recognize those who carried out the coup. The decisions we will take, whatever they are, will be based on the correspondence with Bazoum,” Macron said.
The Sahel country is also embroiled in a confrontation with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The regional bloc threatened to intervene militarily if diplomacy failed to restore Bazoum to his position.
“I call on all countries in the region to adopt a responsible policy,” Macron said on Monday.
He said that France supports [ECOWAS’s] diplomatic action, and when you so decide, [its] military action.
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