Thousands rally in Niger calling for withdrawal of French troops

© REUTERS - Mahamadou Hamidou

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 July.

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".

The coalition of civil society groups called for a three-day sit-in, starting Friday.

Niger's military regime on Friday accused 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 26 July by members of his guard.

On Friday, French president Emmanuel Macron paid tribute to Bazoum, praising his "commitment, action and courage".

He dismissed Niger's rulers as having "no legitimacy" and insisted France would make its decisions with regard to Niger "on the basis of exchanges with President Bazoum".

In a statement read on television, regime spokesman Colonel Amadou Abdramane referred to Macron's comments.

"Mr. Macron's comments and his unceasing efforts in favour of an invasion of Niger aim at perpetuating a neo-colonial operation against the Nigerien people, who ask for nothing more than to decide its own destiny for itself," he said.

Diplomatic wrangling

"Measures have been taken to protect these premises," he said.

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