Tense and violent situations were the order of the day on Sunday as thousands of Nigeriens who support the military coup gathered outside the French Embassy in Niger to public decry and express anger over France’s influence in its former colony.
The demonstrators chanted support for Russian leader Vladimir Putin even when the nation called for releasing the country’s democratically elected president, Mohamed Bazoum.
Some protesters tore down a plaque identifying the Embassy, treaded on it and then replaced it with Russian and Nigerien flags. Shouts of “long live Putin,” “long live Russia” and “down with France” engulfed the air and filled the lips of every protester.
President Emmanuel Macron’s office said France would immediately retaliate against anyone who attacks French nationals or facilities in Niger.
A large proportion of the international community has condemned the coup, which saw members of the Niger presidential guard overthrow Bazoum and install a military junta called the National Council for the Safeguard of the homeland.
When Bazoum came to power in 2021, it was the country’s first democratic power transfer. Since its independence from France in 1960, Niger has always been politically unstable.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Sunday demanded that Bazoum be released and reinstated within a week.
Should the junta remain in charge, the group said it would “take all measures necessary to restore constitutional order in the Republic of Niger,” including the use of force.
ECOWAS also declared a host of measures, including closing land and air borders with Niger. They have also stated that they would reject any form of resignation that may purportedly come from Bazoum, who they consider hostage.
France and the European Union have assured support to ECOWAS if they decide to sanction the junta. The two had already cut off financial support for Niger.
Niger was a French colony for over 50 years before its independence in 1960. Diplomatic ties between the two countries were solid until Thursday’s putsch (coup).
Many Nigeriens believe France has been deceitful in their dealings with their country, by robbing it of her resources and dictating the economic order. Niger is one of the poorest nations in the world.
“Niger has suffered too much under French orders. I’ve been unemployed for 10 years because of their system,” said Karimou Sidi, one of the protesters. “We want freedom.”
Another protester states that he supported the leaders of the coup because “they are against France who robbed us all.”
“We are going to get France out of Africa,” he said.