Thousands of coup supporters march in Niger’s capital

Thousands of coup supporters march in Niger’s capital

Demonstration by 'our compatriots’ testifies to the extent to which they have been gagged by the former government, says junta leader

By Aurore Bonny

DOUALA, Cameroon (AA) - Thousands of backers of the coup in Niger marched through the streets of the capital Niamey on Sunday, a day after the mutinous soldiers who staged it called for a demonstration.

"A support march organized by our compatriots has been underway since 9 a.m. (0800GMT) at the Place de Concertation in Niamey. This show of force has been unheard of in the capital for more than 10 years, no doubt testifying to how much they were gagged by the old power," Gen. Abdourahmane Tchiani said on Twitter.

He accompanied the statement with a video of people demonstrating in the streets of Niamey. Numerous images published on social networks and by local media also showed people in the streets of the capital and in front of the French embassy waving Russian flags and calling for the withdrawal of France from Niger.

The demonstrations do not represent public opinion throughout Niger, according to Ibrahim Harouna, the head of a local press house.

In a video posted on social media, he pointed out that Niamey is an opposition capital and that rallies in support of Mohamed Bazoum, the country’s democratically elected president, have been organized in other regions.

Bazoum is the victim of a coup staged by mutineers led by Tchiani, the head of his presidential guard, under the pretext of the deterioration of the country's security situation.

He is still being held by the mutineers.

“Since July 26, our country has entered a difficult phase in its history. Faced with the serious situation that is shaking it, I have worked, by various means, to find a negotiated way out of the crisis, in particular allowing the release of President Mohamed Bazoum and to restore him to his functions. As long as there is hope of achieving this, I will continue on this path. I take this opportunity to call for calm,” his predecessor, Mahamadou Issoufou, said on Twitter.

He called for the protection of people and property, “not only with regard to Nigeriens but also foreign nationals living on our territory.”

His statement was in line with those made by French diplomats following demonstrations at the French embassy on Sunday, during which a door was lit on fire.

"Anyone who attacks French nationals, the army, diplomats or French facilities will see France retaliate immediately and uncompromisingly. The President of the Republic will not tolerate any attack against France and its interests," said the French Presidency.

It added that it supports all regional initiatives aimed at the restoration of constitutional order and the return of President Bazoum.

The heads of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are holding an extraordinary summit on the situation in Niger in Nigeria, where they have given a one-week ultimatum.

They said they are not ruling out "recourse to force" if Bazoum is not reinstalled by then.

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