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3 Sep, 2023 04:15

Thousands demand withdrawal of French troops from Niger (VIDEOS)

The African country’s military government accused Paris of “blatant interference” by backing the ousted president 
Thousands demand withdrawal of French troops from Niger (VIDEOS)

Thousands of protesters have again gathered outside the French military base in Niger’s capital, Niamey to demand the withdrawal of French forces from the country. The rally was sparked by a call from civic organizations that oppose the former colonial power’s military presence in the region.

A series of smaller protests leading up to the weekend rally were “relatively calm and organized,” according to Al Jazeera. However, on Saturday, some of the activists were seen “breaking the barriers set up by the security forces, police and the military” and trying to force their way into the base, which houses around 1,500 soldiers.

“French army, leave our country,” banners held by demonstrators in Niamey read.

Despite warnings by the French military that it would respond if their military and diplomatic facilities were targeted in the renewed tensions, the demonstrators refused to leave.

“We want to fight to remove from our country all military bases,” a protester told Al Jazeera. “We don’t want it. Because for more than 13 years terrorism has been here. They don’t care to fight terrorism,” he said.

Niger’s military government has accused Paris of “blatant interference” by backing the ousted president, Mohamed Bazoum, who has been in custody since July 26.

On Friday, French President Emmanuel Macron said he speaks to the deposed Nigerien leader “every day,” and expressed his support for Bazoum’s regime. The remarks caused backlash from Niger’s military leaders, who accused the French president of using “divisive rhetoric and seeking to perpetrate neo-colonial relationship.”

Niger’s military government spokesman, Colonel Amadou Abdramane, responded to Macron’s comments, saying they “constitute further blatant interference in Niger's domestic affairs,” adding that Niger’s “differences” with France “do not touch on the relationship between our peoples, or on individuals, but on the relevance of the French military presence in Niger.”

Last month, the military rulers announced the cancelation of military agreements with France and called for the “immediate expulsion” of the French ambassador, Sylvain Itte. The envoy’s diplomatic immunity had been withdrawn as his presence was said to constitute a threat to public order. 

France has refused to recall Itte from its former colony, stating that despite pressure from the “illegitimate authorities,” the ambassador will remain in Niamey.