CORRECTS - Thousands protest in support of coup leader near French military base in Niger
Demonstrators also protest French troops' presence a day after West African bloc seeks UN, African Union support against Niger coup
By James Tasamba and Olanrewaju Kola
KIGALI, Rwanda / MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AA) – Thousands of coup supporters yelling anti-French slogans on Friday marched near the French military base on the outskirts of Niger’s capital Niamey to denounce the continued presence of French troops in the country.
Social video footage showed protestors raising Russian flags – something seen in earlier protests – as well as signs with anti-French slogans.
The protests came a day after leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) resolved to activate its regional standby force for possible use of force to restore constitutional order following the July 26 overthrow of Niger’s President Mohamed Bazoum.
“Down with France, down with ECOWAS,” the protestors shouted.
"I didn't attend the protest but I saw the large crowd. There were many protesters and they were returning on motorcycles, lorries from the area where the base is," Yusufuo Muhammad, a resident of Niamey, told Anadolu on the phone.
France, Niger's former colonial master, has a military base with some 1,500 troops to help the Sahel country counter terrorist attacks.
Declaring their support for coup leader Gen. Abdourahamane Tchiani, the protestors demanded that French troops leave Niger, following the junta’s recent claims that France is “attempting to destabilize” the country.
They also accused ECOWAS of “working under the shadow” of France to impose sanctions on Niger and issue threats of military intervention to reinstate Bazoum.
France supports the efforts of the ECOWAS bloc to reverse the coup in Niger, its Foreign Ministry said Thursday after the emergency summit in Nigeria.
France reiterated “its strong condemnation of the ongoing coup attempt in Niger, as well as the kidnapping of President Bazoum and his family.”
Tchiani, the former commander of Niger's presidential guard, declared himself the head of a transitional government ever since the military ousted Bazoum.
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