Protesters rally outside a French military base calling for the ambassador and about 1,500 soldiers to leave.
Large demonstrations are taking place outside a French military base in Niger’s capital, Niamey, as pressure mounts on France’s ambassador and soldiers to leave the country.
Niger’s military government, which seized power on July 26, has accused French President Emmanuel Macron of using divisive rhetoric in his comments about the coup and seeking to perpetrate France’s neocolonial relationship with its former colony.
Sylvain Itte, France’s ambassador, remained in Niger despite a 48-hour deadline to leave the country more than a week ago, a decision Macron said he “applauds”.
Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris, reporting from Niamey, said demonstrators – expressing frustration there is still a French presence in the country – were beginning to take matters into their own hands.
According to security personnel, the protest was scheduled to begin at about 3pm (14:00 GMT), but thousands of demonstrators had already gathered by 10am (09:00 GMT), taking police and security forces by surprise.
Idris said the protests that have taken place over the past few days have been “relatively calm and organised”. But earlier on Saturday demonstrators were seen “breaking the barriers set up by the security forces, the police and the military”, and approaching the army base with some “trying to gain access forcefully”.
The military has since reinforced the area around the French base, which contains about 1,500 French troops, and warned against forceful entry and the repercussions that would follow.
‘I speak every day to President Bazoum’: Macron
Niger’s military regime has accused Paris of “blatant interference” by backing the country’s deposed President Mohamed Bazoum.
Comments by Macron in support of Bazoum “constitute further blatant interference in Niger’s domestic affairs”, military spokesman Colonel Amadou Abdramane said in a statement read on nationwide TV.
Macron said on Friday he spoke daily with Bazoum after he was removed from power in the coup.
“I speak every day to President Bazoum. We support him. We do not recognise those who carried out the putsch. The decisions we will take, whatever they may be, will be based upon exchanges with Bazoum,” said Macron.
The Sahel state is also embroiled in a standoff with the West African bloc ECOWAS, which has threatened to intervene militarily if diplomatic pressure to return Bazoum to office fails.
On Monday, Macron said: “I call on all the states in the region to adopt a responsible policy.”
France, he said, “supports [ECOWAS’s] diplomatic action and, when it so decides, [its] military” action, he said, describing this as “a partnership approach”.