Diplomacy/International

Thousands march through Niger capital in solidarity with military junta 

Thousands of people have taken to the streets of Niger’s capital, Niamey, in support of last week’s military coup, the BBC reports.

 

They condemned West African countries who have imposed sanctions on the country, and also demanded the departure of foreign troops.

 

Both US and France have military bases in the country to help fight Islamist militants.

 

A similar protest on Sunday led to attacks on the French embassy but Thursday’s demonstration was peaceful.

 

France, the former colonial power in Niger, had called on the military leader to ensure there was no repeat.

 

Previous demonstrations had seen some chanting “Long live Russia”, “Long live Putin”, and “Down with France” – the leader of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group has reportedly described the coup as a triumph.

 

But organisers had asked people not to wave Russian flags this time, and there were far fewer on display compared to Sunday. People had Nigerien flags instead.

 

It isn’t clear if this was because Russia has issued a statement calling for the return to power of the ousted president, Mohamed Bazoum, and negotiations, or because Thursday is Niger’s Independence Day.

 

Mr Bazoum, the first democratically elected president to succeed another in Niger, was detained by his own guards last week.

 

Correspondents in the country say there are also many people who are opposed to the coup.

 

The Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), a trade bloc of 15 West African countries, has imposed financial and trade sanctions. It has also threatened to use force if President Bazoum is not reinstated by Sunday.

 

Senegal on Thursday said it would send troops if the bloc decided on military intervention. Foreign Minister Aissata Tall Sall said there had been one “coup too many” in the region. The army has seized power in neighbouring Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea in recent years.

 

“Senegalese soldiers, for all these reasons, will go there,” she said.

 

Niger’s electricity company says that neighbouring Nigeria has cut electricity supplies, leading to widespread power cuts, although this has not been confirmed by Nigeria.

 

On Wednesday evening, coup leader Gen Abdourahmane Tchiani warned against “any interference in the internal affairs” of the country.

 

Gen Tchiani, a former chief of the presidential guard to Mr Bazoum, seized power on 26 July.

 

In a televised address on Wednesday, Gen Tchiani said the military regime rejected the Ecowas “sanctions as a whole and refuses to give in to any threat, wherever it comes from”.

 

He labelled the sanctions “cynical and iniquitous” and said they were intended to “humiliate” Niger’s security forces and make the country “ungovernable”.

 

Hundreds of foreign nationals have been evacuated from Niger. The US has ordered a partial evacuation of its embassy and more than 1,000 French and Europeans have been flown out of the country.

 

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