Tens of thousands of protesters gathered outside a French military base in Niger, demanding that its 1,500 soldiers leave, despite France’s refusal to comply after a coup deposed the elected president.
On Saturday, demonstrators slit the throat of a goat dressed in French flags and carried coffins draped in French flags in front of a line of Nigerien soldiers. Others carried signs demanding that France leave.
“We are ready to sacrifice ourselves today because we are proud,” protester Yacouba Issoufou said. “They pillaged our resources, and we discovered it.” So they’re going to escape.”
It was the largest gathering since the July 26 coup, indicating that public support for the new military leadership is strong.
France had cordial relations with overthrown President Mohamed Bazoum. President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday he spoke to the deposed Nigerien leader every day and “the decisions we will take, whatever they may be, will be based upon exchanges with Bazoum”.
Anti-French sentiment grew even stronger last week when France defied a military order to remove its ambassador, Sylvain Itte. The police have been ordered to remove him.
The July coup, one of eight in West and Central Africa since 2020, drew in global powers concerned about a regional shift to military rule.
France is the most affected, as its influence over its former colonies has dwindled in West Africa in recent years as popular vitriol has grown. Its forces have been expelled from neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso following coups in those countries, reducing its role in a regional fight against armed groups.