Thousands of people gather in Niger to support a military takeover

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Supporters of the new government in Niger went to the streets in the capital city of Niamey on Thursday, a week after a military coup in the West African country.

Supporters of de facto president Abdourahmane Tchiani and his junta held a rally in the streets of Niamey, according to a dpa journalist in the city.

Reportedly, civil society groups issued a request for the demonstrations to take place.

Their arrival coincided with celebrations commemorating 63 years since Niger won its freedom from French colonial rule.

Agadez residents reportedly held a rally, with signs showing sympathy for the putschists, according to local media. Flags of the Russian Federation were allegedly waved as well.

Many migrants go through Agadez, which is located on the outskirts of the Sahara Desert, en route to Libya and eventually the Mediterranean.

According to Olaf Bernau of the migrant network Afrique-Europe-Interact, the plotters of the coup were able to spark a “nationalistic fire” in the public within a week.

The European Union’s migration policy toward Niger is a contributing factor.

Niger has been receiving funding to help reduce migration for several years now because of its role as a transit country for people trying to reach Europe. The facilitation of illegal migration has been banned in Niger since 2015, when the law was passed.

Niger has been a crucial ally for the West in the fight against terrorism and in the effort to limit migration.

The Sahel is frequently attacked by dozens of militias, some of which have pledged allegiance to the so-called Islamic State (IS) or Al Qaeda.

Niger’s democratically elected president, Mohamed Bazoum, was overthrown last week after being arrested by members of the presidential guard.

On Friday, Tchiani, the commander of the presidential guard, suspended the constitution and disbanded all constitutional institutions, thus making himself the new ruler.

On Thursday, Bazoum published an opinion piece in the Washington Post appealing to the international community to assist in reestablishing constitutional order in the country.

Bazoum said in the article that he was writing “as a hostage” and that he was “just one of hundreds of citizens who have been arbitrary and illegally imprisoned.”

To succeed in the coup would have “devastating consequences for our country, our region, and the entire world,” Bazoum warned.

In it, he urged the U.S. government and “the entire international community” to assist him get things back under control.

The only way to permanently combat poverty and terrorism is to stand up for our common values, which include democratic pluralism and respect for the rule of law. He ended his letter by saying, “The people of Niger will never forget your assistance during this critical juncture in our history.”

The new government of Niger is actively seeking partners. General Salifou Modi, the junta’s second-in-command, visited neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso, both of which are headed by army commanders who gained power in coups.

Modi stated that the two countries would help Niger, especially with security issues.

The deputy head of Niger’s military junta, General Salifou Modi, stated on Wednesday that “we are happy about the closeness we have with our brothers in Mali” after meeting with the administration in the Malian capital Bamako.

Burkina Faso’s military strongman Ibrahima Traoré met with Modi on Wednesday in the capital city of Ouagadougou and reportedly gave him his backing.

Nigeria cut off electricity to Niger on Wednesday, and the World Bank froze payments to the West African country.

Further, the putschists in Niger have been issued an ultimatum by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

ECOWAS has threatened sanctions and maybe military action if Bazoum is not reinstated by Sunday.

On Thursday, the French Foreign Ministry announced online that the evacuation of French citizens from Niger had been completed.

Sébastien Lecornu, the French minister of defense, tweeted on Thursday that 1,079 people, including French citizens and those from other countries, had been evacuated as of Tuesday.

There were 992 passengers on four planes to Paris, 560 of them were French.

According to the French General Staff, almost one hundred persons were transported to Chad via a fifth and final flight.

French officials said they had to leave as Niger blocked its airspace and pro-coup protesters turned violent near the French embassy.

The junta in Niger has claimed that France is plotting an invasion.

Niger has blocked the French news channels France 24 and RFI.

The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs published a statement Thursday night strongly condemning the stoppage of broadcasts.

The ministry also noted that the coup’s perpetrators used authoritarian repression to justify their actions against the press in Niger.

On Thursday, Niger celebrated its independence from France, while in Washington, Vice President Joe Biden said the country “is facing a grave challenge to its democracy.”

NAN adds that he called again for “the preservation of Niger’s hard-earned democracy” and the release of Bazoum and his family.

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