Thousands of individuals gathered in Niger’s capital on Sunday to express solidarity with the recent military coup, whose leader cautioned against external interference while presenting a three-year transition of authority.
The demonstrators chanted slogans critical of former colonial power France and the West African regional group ECOWAS, which is contemplating a potential military intervention to reinstate President Mohamed Bazoum if negotiations with the coup leaders prove unsuccessful.
While the new military leadership of the Sahel state has officially prohibited demonstrations, those advocating for the coup find leniency in practice.
The protesters displayed signs with messages such as “Halt the military intrusion” and “Against sanctions,” alluding to the financial aid cuts and trade limitations imposed by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) since the July 26 coup.
As reported by AFP journalists, music performers endorsing the new military regime accompanied Sunday’s rally.
This pro-coup gathering marks another in a series of similar events and occurred a day after Niamey’s new ruler, General Abdourahamane Tiani, cautioned that foreign military intervention in Niger wouldn’t be a straightforward endeavor.
In a televised statement on Saturday night, Tiani emphasized his non-desire to “appropriate” power and pledged a return to civilian governance within three years.
The current leaders of Niger have accused France, a close associate of Bazoum, of influencing ECOWAS’s anti-coup stance. ECOWAS had sent a delegation led by former Nigerian leader Abdulsalami Abubakar to Niamey in a renewed diplomatic effort to solve the crisis.
Unlike an earlier mission in August, this time, the delegation conversed with Tiani and met with Bazoum, who is currently in confinement with his family at the presidential palace and might face treason charges.
Footage on Niger television depicted Bazoum smiling and exchanging handshakes with delegation members.
Abubakar expressed optimism, stating, “There is still hope,” and mentioning that the visit had brought about “a key for pursuing talks until an outcome for this difficult situation.”
A source from ECOWAS confirmed the delegation’s return to Abuja, the Nigerian capital, on Sunday.
In his televised address, Tiani claimed that ECOWAS was “preparing to attack Niger by establishing an occupying army in collaboration with a foreign military force,” without specifying the country involved.
He added, “If an attack were to happen against us, it wouldn’t be as easy as some might assume.”
Tiani also unveiled a 30-day “national dialogue” period to formulate “tangible proposals” that would lay the groundwork for “a fresh constitutional path.”
The Sahel region grapples with mounting jihadist uprisings linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group—those behind the coup point to frustration over violence as a justification for their power seizure.
On Sunday, Pope Francis urged a diplomatic resolution to the political crisis in Niger and its potential repercussions on regional stability.
“I unite in prayer with the international community’s efforts to rapidly find a peaceful solution for the welfare of all,” Francis remarked in a statement following his Angelus prayer in St. Peter’s Square in Rome.