Thousands of people protested the French military presence in Niger and French interference in Niger’s internal affairs Saturday.
Media reports said:
The protesting people gathered outside of the French military base in Niger’s capital Niamey once again demanding the withdrawal of French forces from Niger.
The rally was sparked by a call from several civic organizations, opposed to the former colonial power’s military presence in the region.
In what was regarded as the biggest gathering since the July 26 coup in Niger, tens of thousands of protesters gathered outside the French military base.
The military coup that has widespread popular support but France refuses to recognize the change of power.
The protesters also demanded that France withdraw its ambassador from Niger as its new military government have accused Niger’s former colonial ruler France of “interference”.
A series of smaller protests leading up to the weekend rally have been “relatively calm and organized,” said a media report.
However, on Saturday some of the activists were seen “breaking the barriers set up by the security forces, police and the military” and trying to force their way into the base, which houses around 1,500 French soldiers.
Anti-French sentiment has risen in Niger since the coup but soured further last week when France ignored the junta’s order for its ambassador, Sylvain Itte, to leave.
French Army, Leave Our Country
Despite the warning by the French military that it would respond, if their military and diplomatic facilities were targeted in the renewed tensions, the demonstrators refused to leave.
“French army, leave our country,” read the banners held by the demonstrators in Niamey.
“We want to fight to remove from our country all military bases,” a protester told journalists. “We do not want it. Because for more than 13 years terrorism has been here. They do not care to fight terrorism,” he said.
A Goat’s Throat Slit And Coffin
Outside the military base, the protesters slit the throat of a goat dressed in French colours and carried coffins draped in French flags as a line of Nigerien soldiers looked on. Others carried signs calling for France to leave.
An Al Jazeera report said the protests were seen approaching the army base with some trying to force their way in.
A media report said:
The demonstrators expressed frustration as there is still a French presence in the country. They said the people were beginning to take matters into their own hands.
We Are Proud
Reuters reporters said 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 are going to get out.”
France had cordial relations with ousted President Mohamed Bazoum and has about 1,500 troops stationed in Niger.
Blatant Interference To Perpetrate Neo-Colonial Relationship
Niger’s military government has accused Paris of blatant interference by backing ousted president Bazoum, who has been in custody since July 26.
On Friday, French President Emmanuel Macron said that he spoke to the deposed Nigerien leader “every day” and reassured his support towards Bazoum’s regime.
“I speak every day to President Bazoum. We support him. We do not recognize those who carried out the putsch. The decisions we will take, whatever they may be, will be based upon exchanges with Bazoum,” said Macron.
Macron has backed ousted President Bazoum and refused to recognize the new rulers.
The French President’s remarks caused backlash from Niger’s military leaders, who accused the French president of using “divisive rhetoric and seeking to perpetrate neo-colonial relationship.”
Niger’s military government spokesman, Colonel Amadou Abdramane, responded to Macron’s comments by saying that they “constitute further blatant interference in domestic affairs,” adding that Niger’s “differences” with France “do not touch on the relationship between our peoples, or on individuals, but on the relevance of the French military presence in Niger.”
Macron’s comments were published on the French Presidential Palace Elysee’s social media platform and were made as he spoke about educational matters to reporters in southern France.
Niger’s military government has denounced Macron’s comments as divisive and served only to perpetrate France’s neo-colonial relationship.
Last month, the military rulers announced the cancellation of military agreements with France and called for “immediate expulsion” of the French ambassador Sylvain Itte. The envoy’s diplomatic immunity had been withdrawn, on the basis that his presence constitutes a threat to public order.
France has refused to recall the diplomat from its former colony, stating that despite pressure from “illegitimate authorities,” the ambassador will remain in Niamey.
French ambassador, Itte, 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”.
France, Most Impacted
A media report said:
Most impacted by the July 26 coup in Niger is France, whose influence over its former colonies has waned in West Africa in recent years just as popular discontent against former colonial rulers has grown.
France’s military forces have been kicked out of neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso since coups in those countries, reducing its role in a region-wide fight against deadly Jihadist insurgencies.
France is not the only country with strategic interests at stake. The U.S. and European powers also have troops stationed in the country.
Back To Civilian Rule
Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu, who holds the West African economic block ECOWAS’ revolving chairmanship, said last week that a nine-month transition back to civilian rule could satisfy regional powers.
Niger’s junta had previously proposed a three-year timeline.
Niger Court Orders Expulsion Of French Ambassador
A Bloomberg report said:
Niger’s top court approved the immediate expulsion of France’s ambassador, revoking his diplomatic immunity, according to a request addressed to the court’s president.
The development comes after France’s President Emmanuel Macron rejected the ruling junta’s demand to recall his ambassador a month after a coup disrupted relations between the two former allies.
Since the July 26 coup, France has committed acts that “violates the Vienna convention regulating diplomatic relations, including the violation of Niger’s airspace and other acts that goes against the interests of Niger and its people,” according to the court document.
Itte “has refused to leave the country after he was declared persona non grata,” it said.
A spokesman of the military government confirmed the document.
The decision by the court seems judicial support to the new military government.
An MNA report said:
Emphasizing that the French ambassador violated diplomatic protocols, Niger’s judicial system announced that the legal process of expelling the French ambassador from Niger has begun.
Nigerian sources reported on Saturday that a security atmosphere is prevailing around the French Embassy in Niamey, and the security forces do not allow anyone to approach this embassy.
Niger’s judicial system announced that the French ambassador violated diplomatic protocols and avoided being present there after being summoned to the Nigers Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The judicial system of Niger further added that the French ambassador is no longer a diplomat and does not have a residence permit.
According to reports from Nigerian sources, the legal process of expelling the French ambassador and his family from the country has begun.
French Military’s Threat
A report by The New Arab said:
Colonel Pierre Gaudilliere, the French military’s spokesman, said that “The French military forces are ready to respond to any upturn in tension that could harm French diplomatic and military premises in Niger.”
This is seen as a military threat to Niger.
Italy Fears Military Solution To Niger Crisis Could Foment Migration
A Reuters report said:
A military solution to the coup in Niger would be a “disaster” that could trigger a new migration crisis, Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said on Thursday.
The main West African bloc ECOWAS has been trying to negotiate with the coup leaders but has warned it is ready to send troops into Niger to restore constitutional order if diplomatic efforts fail.
“(A) military solution (would) be a disaster,” Tajani told reporters as he arrived at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in the Spanish city of Toledo. “We need to work day by day for a diplomatic solution.”
The crisis in Niger is one of the main topics of the meeting, which will be addressed by Hassoumi Massoudou, the foreign minister of the ousted government, and Omar Touray, the president of the ECOWAS Commission.
Asked if he feared military intervention could lead to a migration crisis, Tajani replied: “Yes, of course. To have a war in Niger (means) more people leaving this country, as in Sudan – there are more and more people leaving Sudan.”
Tajani spoke positively of an Algerian proposal this week to resolve the crisis, involving a six-month transition period led by a civilian.