Hundreds of pro-coup supporters gathered in Niamey, Niger’s capital, on Thursday, with some waving enormous Russian flags, according to reports from AFP journalists.
The demonstrators gathered in the city’s centre at Independence Square, responding to a demand from a coalition of civil society organisations on the anniversary of the country’s independence from France in 1960.
One of the marchers, Issiaka Hamadou, stated that “only security interests us,” regardless of whether it came from “Russia, China, or Turkey, if they want to help us.”
“We just don’t want the French, who have been looting us since 1960 – they’ve been there ever since and nothing has changed,” he said.
France maintains approximately 1,500 troops in Niger to combat jihadism in the Sahel region.
“I have no job after studying in this country, because of the regime (of Bazoum), which is supported by France,” said one student who only gave his first name Oumar. “All that has to go!”
The coup has raised concerns among Western nations that are grappling with the challenge of managing a jihadist insurgency that originated in northern Mali in 2012, spread to Niger and Burkina Faso in 2015, and currently poses a threat to the vulnerable states along the Gulf of Guinea.
Advocates of the junta in Niger contend that France has been ineffective in providing them with adequate protection against Islamist groups, while positing that forging an alliance with Russia would yield a more robust partnership.