Thousands of people who supported the coup in Niger took to the streets on Friday to protest plans by West African countries to send a military force to the country. The protests came after a key regional meeting about a possible invasion was canceled.
ECOWAS had allowed a “standby force” to bring back Mohamed Bazoum, who was elected president. The EU’s top diplomat was worried about how he was being treated in jail since he was removed by his guard on July 26.
Regional military sources said on Friday that the West African bloc’s chiefs of staff were going to meet in Accra, Ghana’s capital, on Saturday.
But later, they said that the meeting had been canceled for “technical reasons” and would not happen again.
Sources said that the original purpose of the meeting was to tell the organization’s leaders about “the best options” for activating and sending out the standby force.
ECOWAS hasn’t said much about the force or when it will move, and the leaders have made it clear that they still want a peaceful solution.
On Friday, thousands of people who supported the coup gathered near a French military base in Niger. At the last minute, the meeting was called off.
Protesters near the base on the outskirts of the city of Niamey yelled, “Down with France, down with ECOWAS.”
The newly elected leaders of Niger claim that France, a former colonial power that is close to Bazoum, is to blame for ECOWAS’ tough stance against the coup.
Many marchers held up Russian and Niger flags and cheered for General Abdourahamane Tiani, the country’s new strongman.
“We will get the French to leave! One protester, Aziz Rabeh Ali, a member of a students’ union, said, “ECOWAS is not independent; France is controlling it.”
France has about 1,500 soldiers in Niger as part of a force fighting a terrorist uprising that has been going on for eight years.
It is getting more and more hateful across the Sahel. Last year, it pulled its anti-jihadist forces out of neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso because it didn’t like the military governments that got rid of elected leaders.
Last week, Niger’s new leaders got rid of defense deals with France. On July 30, angry protests outside the French embassy in Niamey caused France to evacuate its people.