Tens of thousands of protesters converged outside a French military base in Niger, demanding its 1,500 soldiers leave as France shows no sign it will comply after a coup d’etat removed the elected president.
Outside the base, demonstrators slit the throat of a goat dressed in French colors and carried coffins draped in French flags on Saturday as a line of Nigerien soldiers looked on. Others carried signs demanding France depart.
It was the largest gathering since the July 26 coup, indicating support for the new military leadership is not waning.
France had cordial relations with overthrown President Mohamed Bazoum.
President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday he spoke to the deposed Nigerien leader every day and “the decisions France will take, whatever they may be, will be based upon exchanges with Bazoum”.
Niger’s military regime fired a new verbal broadside at France on Friday, accusing Paris of “blatant interference” by backing the country’s ousted president, Mohamed Bazoum.
In Early August, 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.
Anti-French sentiment rose further last week when France ignored a military order for its ambassador, Sylvain Itte, to leave. The police have been instructed to expel him.
The July coup, one of eight in West and Central Africa since 2020, has sucked in global powers concerned about a shift to military rule across the region.
Most affected is France, whose influence over its former colonies has waned in West Africa in recent years as popular vitriol has grown. Its forces have been kicked out of neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso since coups in those countries, reducing their role in a region-wide fight against armed groups.
The military rulers have also announced the immediate “expulsion” of the French ambassador, Sylvain Itte, and the withdrawal of his diplomatic immunity, stating his presence was a threat to public order.
French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday hailed Itte’s work in Niger and said he will stay in the country, despite being given a 48-hour deadline to leave Niger a week ago.