‘Macron get out of our house’ chants fill Niamey as thousands prot...

“Macron, get out of our house,” chant thousands of young demonstrators, keeping time with reggae rhythms, clearly expressing their demand for French soldiers to depart Niger.

Protests against the presence of 1,500 French military personnel have drawn tens of thousands of participants to the airbase that houses a portion of the former colonial power’s forces near Niamey’s airport over the past ten days.

The Nigerien generals who took control in a coup on July 26 have criticized several cooperation agreements with France and are urging Paris to remove its troops.

However, Paris does not acknowledge the legitimacy of the military regime, and almost uninterrupted citizen “vigils” have been established day and night at Escadrille roundabout, the epicenter of the protest movement.

The scene at the metal barricades, monitored by an unbroken line of police and soldiers, resembles a Saturday night ambiance.

The area under the street lamps is filled with a diverse crowd, including elderly individuals, couples holding hands, young people adorned in national colors, clusters of women, and street vendors.

An impromptu market has sprouted beneath a specially constructed awning, offering a variety of goods including grilled corn, rice, couscous, and tea.

Supporting Niger

Hafizou, who claims to be 16 years old, has joined with a friend who brought a sleeping bag to stay late into the night.

“I’m here to support my country,” declares Hafizou, as he stands amid a group of individuals blowing vuvuzela horns.

“I swear, I walked ten kilometres to get here — we shall never tire,” insists Souleymane Abdou, a trader.

Some individuals, like Mariama Oumarou, a private sector manager adorned in a purple veil, find their way into the protest camp.

“My husband gives me permission to come to show that I am a true patriot,” she says.

The vigil provides a rare space for social interaction in a conservative society.

“It makes us feel good to be here. We meet people, exchange ideas, we talk about the crises we’ve just experienced,” explains Mariama.

However, everyone is resolute in asserting that their primary motive for being here is to advocate for the cause of expelling France.

The organizations orchestrating the vigils are working diligently to garner support from participants. One local association has pledged to provide “1,000 meals a day” and has teams of individuals actively distributing meals in cardboard boxes.

“Small businesses are growing, charitable people are preparing food to distribute for free. There is unparalleled determination,” says Issaka Oumarou, who heads one association backing the military regime.

Out with the French!

The festive ambiance stands in stark contrast to the impassioned slogans on everyone’s lips.

“Down with France,” down with its politics, its president and its soldiers.

The French soldiers within their enclave remain oblivious to the cacophony outside, shielded by a robust security system.

“We don’t need the French. Our army can readily do the job without them,” says one youth at the rally, Oumar.

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