Thousands of people demonstrated in Niger on Sunday in support of last month’s coup, just hours before France’s ambassador was given an ultimatum to leave the country.
Demonstrators gathered near the French military facility in Niamey, some waving Nigerien or Russian flags, others holding banners demanding the withdrawal of French troops.
Previously colonial power France still has 1,500 troops stationed in Niger. They had been assisting overthrown President Mohamed Bazoum in his fight against extremist elements operating in the country before to the July 26 coup.
The National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP) led by General Abdourahamane Tiani has detained him and his at the presidential palace.
Sunday’s rally started at dawn on a roundabout near Niamey airport by the Nigerien air base where the French force is located, as demonstrators answered an appeal from organizations backing the country’s new rulers.
“We don’t want the French army in Niger,” said one demonstrator, Abou Kountche. “Let the French leave.”
“The French say that Niger is a poor country, but when we tell them to go home, they refuse,” said restaurateur Adama Assane.
Niger’s foreign ministry declared on Friday that French ambassador Sylvain Itte had 48 hours to depart, citing his refusal to meet with the new leadership and French government activities that were “contrary to Niger’s interests.”
Paris has rejected the proposal, claiming that the “putschists do not have the authority to make this request,” and that the administration of Bazoum, which they overthrew, remains the lawful authority.
Approximately 20,000 people gathered in the Senyi Kountche stadium on Saturday to support the country’s new military rulers and demand the withdrawal of French soldiers.