Niger citizens protest inhumane sanctions at independence day rally as junta head say they will not submit to threats from anywhere
Supporters of Niger’s ruling junta gathered in the capital, Niamey, on Thursday to protest sanctions imposed on the country in the aftermath of last week’s coup, as well as to oppose foreign meddling.
The mass rally is taking place as the country marks 63 years of independence, in response to a joint call by junta leader General Abdourahamane Tiani and a coalition of civil society groups.
One participant was reportedly seen carrying a sign that read “Long live Niger, Russia, Mali, and Burkina Faso. Down with France, ECOWAS, and the EU. We are going to do a demonstration [against] all the countries of ECOWAS and all who are taking inhumane and unpopular measures toward Niger,” one of the protesters was quoted by Reuters as saying.
ECOWAS begins diplomatic talks with the Niger junta former Nigerian head of state General Abdulsalami Abubakar left meets with General Tiani in Niamey
A protester told Al Jazeera that Niger’s main priority was security, regardless of whether it is provided by “Russia, China, or Turkey.”
Tiani, the former head of Niger’s presidential guard, masterminded the country’s June 26 coup and has since detained President Mohamed Bazoum in the presidential palace.
General Abdourahmane Tiani, who was declared as the new head of state of Niger by leaders of a coup, arrives to meet with ministers in Niamey, Niger July 28, 2023. REUTERS/Balima Boureima//File Photo
US President Joe Biden called for Bazoum’s immediate release on Thursday, the first time the American leader has spoken out about the situation in Niger.
In a statement congratulating the former French colony on its independence, Biden said Washington “stands with the people of Niger” as the country faces a “grave challenge to its democracy.”
The coup has been widely condemned, prompting sanctions from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and aid cuts from Western countries, which regard Niger as a key ally in combating militant violence in the Sahel region.
Tiani, who has the support of juntas in neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso, vowed to fight back in a speech on Wednesday, insisting that the reason for last week’s military takeover “remains the safeguard of [the] homeland, Niger.”
He described the “illegal” sanctions imposed unilaterally by ECOWAS and the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) as “unjust and inhumane” acts against the people of Niger.
Tiani claimed that the West African blocs acted under the influence of “certain” foreign powers, disregarding Niger’s sovereignty and the suffering of its population.
“The CNSP [National Council for the Protection of the Country] rejects these sanctions as a whole and refuses to give in to any threat… wherever it comes from. We refuse any interference in the internal affairs of Niger,” he said.
On Thursday, President Bola Tinubu the ECOWAS chairman dispatched former Nigerian head of state General Abdulsalami Abubakar, as special envoy to Niger to negotiate with the military junta.
Source Reuters/RT/AFP/Al Jazeera