Several thousand people demonstrated in the capital of Niger on Sunday in support of last month’s military coup, whose leader has warned against outside intervention and proposed a three-year transition of power.
The demonstrators chanted slogans hostile to former colonial power France and West African regional bloc ECOWAS, which is considering a potential military operation to reinstate elected president Mohamed Bazoum if ongoing negotiations with coup leaders fail.
The Sahel state’s new military leaders have officially banned demonstrations but in practice, those in support of the coup are allowed to go ahead.
The demonstrators waved placards saying “Stop the military intervention” and “No to sanctions”, in reference to the financial and trade restrictions imposed by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) four days after the coup on July 26.
Sunday’s pro-coup rally was accompanied by musicians praising the new military regime, AFP journalists reported.
The latest in a string of pro-coup rallies came a day after the new military ruler in Niamey warned that an attack on Niger would not be a “walk in the park”.
General Abdourahamane Tiani also said in a televised address on Saturday that he did not wish to “confiscate” power and a transition of power back to civilian rule would not go beyond three years.
Niger’s new leaders have accused France, a close Bazoum ally, of being behind the anti-coup stance taken by ECOWAS, which on Saturday made a fresh push for a diplomatic solution.
After ECOWAS chiefs of staff met in the Ghanaian capital Accra on Friday, the 17-nation bloc said it had agreed on a date for a potential intervention.
It nonetheless sent a diplomatic delegation to Niamey on Saturday, led by former Nigerian leader Abdulsalami Abubakar.
Niger television showed delegation members shaking hands with Bazoum, who remains in detention.
It also broadcast footage of Abubakar speaking to Tiani but the content of the exchange has not been made public.
In his televised address on Saturday, Tiani alleged that ECOWAS was “getting ready to attack Niger by setting up an occupying army in collaboration with a foreign army”, without saying which country he meant.
But he added: “If an attack were to be undertaken against us, it will not be the walk in the park some people seem to think.”
Tiani also announced a 30-day period of “national dialogue” to draw up “concrete proposals” to lay the foundations of “a new constitutional life”.
ECOWAS leaders say they have to act now that Niger has become the fourth West African nation since 2020 to suffer a coup, following Burkina Faso, Guinea and Mali.
The bloc has agreed to activate a “standby force” as a last resort to restore democracy in Niger.
The Sahel region is struggling with growing jihadist insurgencies linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group.
Those behind the military takeovers have pointed to frustration over the violence to justify seizing power. AFP