Niger coup supporters rally after French ambassador’s expulsion

Several thousand people gathered in Niamey on Saturday to show their backing for the military leaders who orchestrated last month’s coup, a day after an ultimatum was directed at France’s ambassador to Niger, compelling them to depart the country, local media reported on Saturday.

The Seyni Kountche Stadium, Niger’s largest venue with a seating capacity of 30,000, was approximately two-thirds occupied, resonating with the sound of vuvuzelas.

In the stands, the flags of Niger, Algeria, and Russia were prominently displayed, while acrobats adorned in Niger’s national colors showcased their talents at the center of the pitch.

“We have the right to choose the partners we want, France must respect this choice,” said Ramatou Ibrahim Boubacar, a model wearing Nigerien flags from head to toe.

“For sixty years, we have never been independent, only since the day of the coup d’etat,” she said.

Boubacar further emphasized that the nation stands firmly behind the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP), which assumed control following the overthrow of President Mohamed Bazoum’s administration on July 26.

Under the leadership of General Abdourahamane Tiani, the CNSP has shifted its focus towards former colonial power France.

Niger’s foreign ministry declared on Friday that French ambassador Sylvain Itte had been given a 48-hour ultimatum to depart, adding that the decision was made based on his refusal to engage with the new leadership and the French government’s actions deemed to be against Niger’s interests.

Paris swiftly dismissed the demand, asserting that the individuals who seized power do not possess the authority to issue such a request.

“The French ambassador, instead of leaving, thinks this is the land of his parents,” said Idrissa Halidou, a healthcare worker and CNSP member.

“We are people of war, we are ready to fight against” the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), he added.

The West African regional bloc has imposed sanctions on the recent regime change and has warned of potential military intervention if the new leadership fails to relinquish power to President Bazoum.

The newly established authorities in Niamey allege that ECOWAS is under the influence of France.

There are 1,500 French soldiers stationed in Niger who were supporting Bazoum’s efforts in countering the longstanding presence of militant groups in the country.

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