Thousands of pro-junta protesters demonstrated outside a French military base in Niamey, Niger on Saturday against France’s refusal to withdraw its military from the country despite demands from Niger’s junta. Protesters were holding banners with signs that said, among other things, “French army leave our country.” This was the biggest protest in Niger so far since the July 26 coup.
Niger’s deposed President Mohamed Bazoum, an ally of France, has been detained by members of his presidential guard since the coup. Bilateral relations between the two countries have soured since then. On August 3, Niger’s junta nullified the military agreements entered into with France by the Bazoum administration and asked the 1,500 French soldiers to leave Niger, a demand refused by French authorities, who see the junta as illegitimate.
The junta further withdrew the authorization of French Ambassador Sylvain Itte on August 25 and asked him to leave the country within 48 hours. As a response, French President Emmanuel Macron stated on August 28 that the ambassador would stay in Niger despite the junta’s request to leave and reiterated France’s support for the detained President Bazoum. Niger rejected President Macron’s remarks on Saturday, accusing him of trying to “instrumentalize” the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to expand France’s influential power in Africa.
Notably, France’s influence in the region has been weakening in recent years. Successive coups as well as protests against French military presence have been carried out in Mali and Burkina Faso, two former French colonies, in 2020 and 2022.