Hundreds of protesters gathered near a French military base in Niger’s capital Niamey on Sunday to demand the withdrawal of French troops from the country.
The demonstrators carried placards with anti-French slogans and demanded the immediate withdrawal of French troops from the country while also calling for the removal of French ambassador, Sylvain Itte, after the diplomat was on Friday given 48 hours to leave Niger by the country’s military rulers.
Itte is accused of ignoring an invitation for a meeting at the Foreign Ministry and other actions of the French government deemed contrary to Niger’s interests.
In response to the order, France issued a statement through its Foreign Ministry saying “the putschists do not have the authority to make this request, (with) the ambassador’s approval coming solely from the legitimate elected Nigerien authorities.”
The military administration said recently that it had revoked several military accords Niger signed with France, a move Paris dismissed and said the military leaders have no legitimate authority to do so.
The demonstrators also chanted slogans against the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which has decreed economic sanctions against Niger and has threatened military action to restore constitutional order.
Niger, a key part of the security infrastructure in West Africa and the West’s “only hope” for stability in the Sahel region according to an analyst, hosts around 1,500 French troops as part of a regional counter-insurgency force.
Anti-French sentiment has swept the Sahel region in recent years with two of Niger’s neighbors, Burkina Faso and Mali, kicking out French troops and hiring mercenaries from Russia’s paramilitary Wagner Group to help fight insurgents.