Hundreds of supporters of Niger’s military administration demonstrated on Saturday near the French military base in the capital, Niamey, in the latest protest against the presence of French forces in the West African country.
Like previous protests, the demonstrators carried banners bearing anti-French slogans and accused France of meddling in the country’s affairs, according to video footage on social media.
They chanted anti-French sentiments and threatened to storm the French embassy and French military base if the French forces and their ambassador did not leave the country.
The protests came a day after the military administration issued an ultimatum to the French ambassador to leave the country due to his ignoring an invitation to hold a meeting at the Foreign Ministry and other measures taken by the French government that are considered contrary to the interests of Niger.
France maintains about 1,500 troops in Niger as part of a counterinsurgency force in the Sahel region, where it is fighting militants linked to the Islamic State and al Qaeda.
Earlier this month, the military administration said it had canceled several military agreements Niger had signed with France, a move Paris rejected and said the military commanders had no legitimate authority to do so.
Meanwhile, thousands of demonstrators marched Saturday to the country’s largest stadium in Niamey to celebrate the anniversary of the overthrow of President Mohamed Bazoum. They showed their support for the military administration.
The demonstrators raised Niger, Algerian and Russian flags and were joined by members of the National Council for the Protection of the Country, which was formed in the aftermath of the military coup, and encouraged supporters to keep up the pressure.
The Nigerien Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that the military administration in Niger on Friday ordered only the French ambassador to leave the country, and not the German, American or Nigerian envoys.
In a statement issued late Friday, the ministry denied widely circulated reports that the German, US and Nigerian envoys had in effect been expelled, explaining that “only the French ambassador to Niger was declared persona non grata.”
On Friday, the military administration in Niger gave French Ambassador Sylvain Etty 48 hours to leave the country, accusing him of refusing to respond to an invitation to meet with Niger’s foreign minister.
“Niger does not need authorization or interpretation of the 1961 Vienna Convention” to order the expulsion of the ambassador within 24 hours, the ministry said in a statement.
The French Foreign Ministry rejected this step, considering that the military administration does not have the authority to expel the ambassador, according to French media.
French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna sent a note on August 8 to express her solidarity with Niger’s ambassador to Paris, Aishatou Boulama Kane, who refused to leave her post after the military administration took over.
Niger was plunged into uncertainty on July 26 when General Abdirahman Chiani, the former commander of the presidential guard, led a military intervention that ousted President Mohamed Bazoum.
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