Niger ‘s ruling junta and civil society groups called on the nation to mobilize in the capital on Thursday to fight for the country’s freedom and push back against foreign interference.
“We are talking about the immediate departure of all foreign forces,” Mahaman Sanoussi, interim coordinator for the M62 civil society group that’s organizing the protest, told The Associated Press.”
The march falls on the West African nation’s Independence Day from its former colonial ruler, France, and as anti-French sentiment spikes. Protests are expected throughout the capital, Niamey, to push back against foreign meddling.
The coup has been strongly condemned by Western countries, many of which saw Niger as the last reliable partner for the West in efforts to battle jihadis linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group in Africa’s Sahel region.
France has 1,500 soldiers in Niger who conduct joint operations with its military, and the United States and other European countries have helped train the nation’s troops.
In an address to the nation on Wednesday, the new military ruler, Gen. Abdourahmane Tchiani, lashed out at neighboring countries and the international community and called on the population to be ready to defend the nation.
Tchiani said Niger will face difficult times ahead and that the “hostile and radical” attitudes of those who oppose his rule provide no added value. He called harsh sanctions imposed last week by the West African block known as ECOWAS illegal, unfair, inhuman, and unprecedented.
ECOWAS has also threatened to use force if ousted President Mohamed Bazoum, who remains under house arrest, is not released and reinstated by Aug. 6.
In a closed-door meeting on Wednesday, dozens of people from civil society organizations, professional groups, and trade unions spoke with the coup leaders about their vision for the country. Sanoussi, from M62, was at the meeting and said the junta talked about their priorities for the nation, including securing it from violence.
But another civil society member at the same gathering who did not want to be named for security reasons told the AP they left feeling concerned. They had a strong impression that the French military was going to be ousted soon and that members of civil society groups would help the junta do it.