Thousands rally in Niger seeking withdrawal of French troops
Thousands rallied Saturday in the Niger capital Niamey to demand that former colonial ruler France withdraw its troops as sought by a junta which seized power in June.
The protesters gathered near a base housing French soldiers following a call by several civic organisations hostile to the French military presence in the West African country.
They help up banners proclaiming “French army leave our country”.
Niger’s military regime had fired a new verbal broadside at France on Friday, accusing Paris of “blatant interference” by backing the country’s ousted president, as protestors held a similar protest near a French base outside Niamey.
President Mohamed Bazoum, a French ally whose election in 2021 had stoked hopes of stability in the troubled country, was detained on July 26 by members of his guard.
Relations with France, the country’s former colonial power and ally in its fight against jihadism, went swiftly downhill after Paris stood by Bazoum.
On August 3, the regime announced the scrapping of military agreements with France, which has some 1,500 soldiers stationed in the country to help fight jihadism in the region — a move that Paris has ignored on the grounds of legitimacy.
The agreements cover different timeframes, although one of them dating from 2012 was set to expire within a month, according to military leaders.
The military rulers have also announced the immediate “expulsion” of the French ambassador Sylvain Itte and announced it was withdrawing his diplomatic immunity. They said his presence was a threat to public order.
But French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday hailed Itte’s work in Niger and said he was in the country despite being given a 48-hour deadline to leave Niger last Friday.
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