Niamey, Aug 3 (EFE).- Thousands of people took to the streets of the Niger capital Niamey on Thursday to show their support for the military junta that overthrew the elected government and detained the country’s president last week.
A police source at the scene estimated that between 15,000 and 20,000 demonstrators were gathered.
Some of the participants, many of them young people – 49% of the population in Niger is under 15 years old, according to the World Bank – wore T-shirts with images of Niger’s coup leader, General Abdurahamane Tiani.
Protesters at the rally, which was being held on Niger’s Independence Day, chanted slogans in favor of Russia, Burkina Faso and Mali, while denouncing France and the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), which have both condemned the Jul. 26 coup and the military leaders behind it.
Ecowas military leaders were meeting in the Nigerian capital Abuja to “discuss the political situation” in Niger.
Nigeria on Wednesday cut off electricity supplies as part of Ecowas sanctions against the coup leaders, who are calling themselves the National Council for the Safeguard of the People (CNSP).
The 15-nation bloc has not ruled out a military intervention against the junta, unless the deposed president Mohamed Bazoum is reinstated and “constitutional order” is restored.
Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara on Thursday called for all sanctions to be implemented “without delay” and authorized his army chief of staff, who has traveled to Abuja for the Ecowas meeting, to prepare for a possible military intervention.
However, Mali and Burkina Faso – which are also ruled by military juntas – have opposed the move, arguing that any military intervention in Niger would amount to a declaration of war against them as well.
The security situation in the country has deteriorated since the coup last Wednesday, leading to several nations evacuating their citizens from the former French colony.
French authorities decided to begin the evacuations after several hundred people gathered in front of the embassy on Sunday, where they torched French flags and damaged the walls of the compound.
The French government said Thursday that it had asked Niger to take “the necessary measures to fully guarantee the security” of foreign diplomatic representations in Niamey.
France and Japan have completed the evacuations of their citizens and other foreign nationals from Niger.
Just over 1,000 civilians have been evacuated on French military planes since Tuesday, over half of whom were French, France’s foreign ministry said.
Over 1,000 French soldiers stationed in Niger to assist in efforts to fight islamic terrorism are expected to remain in the country.
Japanese government spokesman Hirokazu Matsuno thanked France for coordinating the evacuations of his country’s nationals who had requested to leave the African country.
He added that there were still “several Japanese nationals” who wanted to remain in Niger “due to their situations,” and that Tokyo was “going to put in efforts to secure their safety.”
The United States on Wednesday ordered the evacuation of non-emergency personnel from its embassy in Niamey.
State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement that the decision to evacuate US citizens was taken out of an “abundance of caution,” and that the US remains diplomatically engaged at the highest level with the Niger authorities.
“With the ongoing efforts to overturn constitutional order, there may be increased demonstrations that can lead to civil unrest and government instability,” the State Department said in a statement, which added that violent crime is common and urged US citizens not to travel to Niger. EFE