Protesters Threaten to Storm French Military Base, Embassy in Niger

Protesters Threaten to Storm French Military Base, Embassy in Niger

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Hundreds of supporters of the military administration in Niger rallied Saturday near the French military base in the nation’s capital of Niamey in the latest protest against the presence of French troops in the West African country.

Like previous protests, demonstraters carried placards with anti-French slogans and accused France of interfering in the country’s affairs, according to social video footage, Anadolu Agency reported.

They chanted anti-French sentiments and threatened to storm the French Embassy and the French military base, if French troops and its ambassador do not leave the country.

The protests came a day after the military administration issued an ultimatum for the French ambassador to leave the country for reportedly ignoring an invitation for a meeting at the foreign ministry and other actions of the French government deemed contrary to Niger’s interests.

France maintains about 1,500 personnel in Niger as part of a counter-insurgency force in the Sahel region, fighting militants affiliated with Daesh (ISIL or ISIS) and al-Qaeda

Earlier this month, the military administration said it had revoked several military accords Niger signed with France, a move Paris dismissed and said military leaders have no legitimate authority to do so.

In a related development, thousands of protesters marched Saturday to the country’s largest stadium in Niamey to celebrate one since President Mohamed Bazoum was deposed. They displayed support for the military administration.

The marchers raised Nigerien, Algerian and Russian flags and were joined by members of the National Council for the Safeguard of the Country (CNSP), formed in the aftermath of the military takeover, who encouraged supporters to sustain pressure.

Niger’s military administration ordered Friday only the French ambassador to leave the country, not the German, US, or Nigerian envoys, the Foreign Ministry announced.

In a statement late Friday, the ministry dismissed widely circulated reports indicating that the German, US and Nigerian envoys had been effectively expelled, specifying that “only the French ambassador in Niger is declared persona non grata.”

Niger’s military administration on Friday gave the French Ambassador Sylvain Itte 48 hours to leave the country, accusing him of refusing to respond to an invitation to meet Niger's foreign minister.

A ministry statement said that “Niger does not need authorization or an interpretation of the Vienna Convention of 1961” to order the ambassador’s expulsion within 24 hours.

The French Foreign Ministry rejected the move, saying the military administration does not have the authority to expel the ambassador, according to French media.

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna sent an Aug. 8 note to express solidarity with Nigerien Ambassador in Paris Aichatou Boulama Kane, who refused to leave her position after the military administration took power.

Niger was plunged into uncertainty on July 26 when Gen. Abdourahamane Tchiani, a former commander of the presidential guard, led a military intervention that ousted President Mohamed Bazoum.

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