Niger coup supporters call for France ambassador, troops to leave country

Thousands of people have rallied in the Nigerian capital Niamey demanding that France withdraw its ambassador and troops from the West African country sought by the new military rulers, who have accused its former colonial ruler of “interference”.

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 held up banners proclaiming “French army leave our country”.

Niger’s military government, which seized power on July 26, has accused French President Emmanuel Macron of using divisive rhetoric in his comments about the coup and seeking to perpetrate France’s neocolonial relationship with its former colony.

Macron has backed ousted President Mohamed Bazoum and refused to recognise the new rulers. Sylvain Itte, France’s ambassador, remained in Niger despite a 48-hour deadline to leave the country more than a week ago, a decision Macron said he “applauds”.

Earlier on Saturday demonstrators were seen “breaking the barriers set up by the security forces, the police and the military”, and approaching the army base with some “trying to gain access forcefully”.

The military has since reinforced the area around the French base, which contains about 1,500 French troops, and warned against forceful entry and the repercussions that would follow.

The Sahel state is also embroiled in a standoff with the West African bloc ECOWAS, which has threatened to intervene militarily if diplomatic pressure to return Bazoum to office fails.

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