West African Leaders Threaten Military Action as Protesters Attack French Embassy in Niger

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A door at the French Embassy was set ablaze as thousands of pro-coup protesters marched through the streets of Niger’s capital, Niamey. | Source: AP

In a shocking turn of events, thousands of protesters supporting a coup in Niger attacked the French embassy, smashing windows and setting a perimeter door ablaze. This comes as West African governments issue warnings of possible military intervention to restore democratic rule.

A Sea of Protesters Flood Niamey

In the capital city of Niamey, the fervour of the coup supporters was palpable. Countless protesters, many waving Russian flags, took over the city streets. They filled the Boulevard de la Republique and other main thoroughfares, blocking cars at traffic circles and creating a sea of people. The protesters, mostly from Niger, displayed their nationalistic pride with chants of “Niger belongs to us!”.

ECOWAS Issues Ultimatum to Coup Leaders

In response to the chaos, the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) held an emergency summit in Nigeria. They announced sweeping sanctions on Niger unless President Mohammed Bazoum is released from detention and returned to power. The coup leaders have been given one week to reverse their seizure of power or face possible military intervention.

“In the event the authorities’ demands are not met within one week (ECOWAS will) take all measures necessary to restore constitutional order in the Republic of Niger. Such measures may include the use of force,” ECOWAS declared in a statement.

France and U.S. Respond to Unrest

As chaos unfolded in Niger, French President Emmanuel Macron made it clear that assaults on France will not be tolerated. The French foreign ministry called for an end to the violence and increased security at the French embassy in Niamey. France also supported ECOWAS’s denouncement of the coup.

On the other side of the Atlantic, U.S. officials condemned the military officers’ seizure of power but have so far avoided using the word “coup.” Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned that economic and security ties between the U.S. and Niger would depend on the release of President Bazoum and the restoration of the democratic order in Nige

“The situation in Niger remains fluid,” U.S. officials told NBC News.

The Role of Russia

Interestingly, the coup supporters were seen waving Russian flags during demonstrations. Experts suggest that Russia’s paramilitary Wagner Group may have been stirring anti-Western, anti-French sentiments for months, depicting President Bazoum’s government as puppets of Paris.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner Group, praised the coup in Niger, calling it a fight against “colonizers.” However, U.S. officials say there is no evidence that Russia was behind the coup.

The Road Ahead for Niger

Asharq Al-Awsat
Source: Asharq Al-Awsat

As the nation enters a fifth night of nationwide curfew, with President Bazoum still held captive, the path forward for Niger remains unclear. The world watches closely as Niger’s future hangs in the balance.

The events unfolding in Niger are a stark reminder of the delicate balance of power and the significance of democratic governance. They serve as a call to the global community to uphold and advocate for democratic norms across the world.

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