Niger coup-backers protest at French base as regional force mulls intervention

A multitude of demonstrators in support of the recent coup gathered in front of a French military base in Niger\’s capital, Niamey, on Friday. Concurrently, the West African regional entity, ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States), took steps toward a potential military intervention aimed at reinstating civilian governance.

The activation of a standby force was mandated by ECOWAS on Thursday, following the ousting of President Mohamed Bazoum by generals, marking the seventh coup in West and Central Africa within a span of three years.

This prospective mission raises concerns about intensifying conflict in a strategically pivotal region where the influence of Western powers has waned amidst the surge of coups, and where Russian influence seems to be ascending.

A significant portion of the discontent is directed at former colonial power France, whose troops have been expelled from neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso due to coups in those countries. The presence of French forces in Niger is also facing uncertainty. In the aftermath of the coup, protesters targeted the French embassy.

While the demonstration on Friday outwardly appeared peaceful, the underlying message was unmistakable. One protestor\’s placard boldly proclaimed, \”Long live Russia,\” while another expressed sentiments against France and ECOWAS.

Since the coup on July 26, many Nigeriens have participated in rallies organized by the junta to express support for the military leaders. These gatherings have involved criticism of Western powers and praise for Russia, echoing scenes witnessed in Mali and Burkina Faso following coups in those nations between 2020 and 2022.

Protester Salamatou Hima voiced her stance, stating, \”I am here to demand the withdrawal of French forces. We possess the freedom and the right to advocate for what is advantageous for our nation.\”

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