Huge Protest in Niger Demanding the Departure of US Forces

The march recalls the anti-France protests that led to the withdrawal of its forces from Niger

Hundreds took to the streets of Niger‘s capital on Saturday to demand the departure of US forces, after the ruling military council changed its strategy by ending a military agreement with the United States and welcoming Russian military trainers, opening the door wide for Russian influence in the African country.

Protesters marched through the streets of Niamey waving Nigerien flags in a demonstration reminiscent of the anti-France protests that led to the withdrawal of French forces from the country last year after the army seized power in a coup.

One banner handwritten in English read “US out of Niger” in a show of support for the military council and approval of the decision it made in mid-March to cancel an agreement allowing around a thousand US troops to operate on its territory through two bases. Protester Maria Sali said during the march, “We are here to say no to the American base, we do not want Americans on our soil.”

Before the coup, Niger was a key security partner for France and the United States, using it as a base as part of international efforts to combat the ongoing Islamist insurgency in the Sahel region of West Africa.

But the new authorities in Niger followed in the footsteps of the neighboring military councils in Mali and Burkina Faso by ending military agreements with Western allies and withdrawing from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and strengthening relations with Russia.

Washington suspended its cooperation with Niger after the July 26 coup that ousted elected President Mohamed Bazoum from power, while a US delegation visiting Niamey last month failed to meet with General Abd al-Rahman Tiani, the leader of the military regime, to discuss agreements between Niamey and Washington.

Russia sent military trainers and equipment to Niger on Wednesday, another sign of the military council’s openness to close cooperation with Moscow, which seeks to enhance its influence in Africa.

Some Russian flags were seen at the protest, but some citizens said Friday that they did not want the military assistance sent by Moscow to lead to a permanent presence of Russian forces in Niger.

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