Backers of Niger’s junta were compelled to suspend a census on Saturday aimed at enlisting volunteers for non-military positions in defense against potential intervention by West African forces, citingt being inundated by the unexpectedly high turnout of individuals.
Ahead of the planned start of the event, thousands of predominantly young men gathered outside a stadium in the capital city Niamey, in a show of significant support for the junta.
“In all our calculations and our understandings, we never thought we could mobilize (this number of people),” said Younoussa Hima, co-organiser of the initiative dubbed “The Mobilisation of Young People for the Fatherland.”
“So it is really difficult for us today to do this work. That is what made us halt this census,” Hima said by the stadium after the crowds dispersed.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the primary regional organization in West Africa, announced on Friday that it has established an undisclosed “D-Day” for a potential military intervention if diplomatic initiatives prove unsuccessful.
This escalation has the potential to exacerbate instability in a region already grappling with conflict and economic challenges.
The planners of the recruitment campaign in Niamey clarified that their objective was not to enlist volunteers for the military but rather to compile a roster of individuals prepared to offer their civilian expertise in the event of potential ECOWAS actions.
But many of those around the stadium appeared keen to fight.
ECOWAS Military Operation
Arriving in Niamey on Saturday, an ECOWAS delegation engaged in discussions with the junta, indicating that endeavors to peacefully resolve the impasse are still in progress.
Assessing the extent of support for the junta across Niger has proven challenging, but a previous rally held at the stadium on August 11 saw thousands in attendance. These attendees applauded the coup leaders’ commitment to confronting the bloc.
At the stadium on Saturday, Kader Haliou, 35, mentioned that patriotism wasn’t the sole driving force behind individuals wanting to support the junta.
“Most of the young people who have come are unemployed. Getting registered is a blessing for us given the idleness and lack of work,” he said.
The coup and the subsequent imposition of international sanctions have added further strain to Niger’s already challenged economy.
The country ranks among the least developed globally, with over 40% of its population residing in extreme poverty, as reported by the World Bank.