« Demonstrators took to the streets of Niamey on Saturday to celebrate the announcement of the departure of French troops from Niger and demand an immediate withdrawal.
Footage shows protesters marching through the streets of Niamey, waving flags and holding banners.
French President Emmanuel Macron declared on September 24 that French forces would leave Niger within the few upcoming months, until the end of this year.
« No, we don’t agree. All they have to do is to leave this evening. They can do what their ambassador did. Three months is too long. This isn’t their home, » said Hima Abdou, a protester.
Another protester, Souleymane Akali, added, « What we want from them is to leave within two weeks. That’s enough for us. It’s not up to them to choose for us. It’s up to us Nigeriens to choose what we want. They have humiliated us. We are tired of their actions. »
The M62 movement, a coalition opposing the presence of French military forces in Niger, has filed a complaint against those who governed the country for the past 12 years, accusing them of leading the nation into turmoil.
Boubacar Kimba Kollo, an organiser of the protest, stated, « Of course, we are going to lodge a complaint because M62’s lawyers have already drafted the complaint that will be lodged on Tuesday by the lawyers, God willing. We are going to lodge this complaint because we know today that Niger has been plunged for a long time into a total abyss. »
Macron announced that also his ambassador to Niger, who had been living under effective house arrest, would be withdrawn from the coup-hit nation till the end of 2023, alongside the French troops.
Paris had originally sent troops to the Sahel region at the request of African leaders to counter Islamist insurgents but had faced calls from the Nigerien population and coup leaders to leave the country amid rising anti-French sentiment following the military takeover.
France had kept 1,500 troops in Niger since the coup and had repeatedly defied orders by the military junta to leave. The latest withdrawal comes after France had to abandon operations in neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso in recent years, following similar military takeovers.
The coup on July 26 installed General Abdourahamane Tchiani, the leader of the presidential guard, as head of state. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) imposed sanctions and threatened military action, while the United States, the European Union, Russia and international groups condemned the action.
However, massive protests in support of the military emerged on the streets of Niamey. Neighbouring countries Mali and Burkina Faso cautioned against any intervention by other West African nations, warning that it would be a ‘declaration of war’ against them too.
It marks the fifth coup in Niger since gaining independence from France in 1960, and it is the seventh military takeover to occur in West and Central Africa within three years. »