Hundreds of people backing the coup in Niger gathered Thursday for a mass rally in the capital Niamey with some brandishing giant Russian flags, AFP journalists said.
The demonstrators converged at Independence Square in the heart of the city, following a call by a coalition of civil society associations on a day marking the country’s 1960 independence from France.
Issiaka Hamadou, one of the demonstrators, said that it was “only security that interests us,” irrespective of whether it came from “Russia, China, Turkey, if they want to help us.”
“We just don’t want the French, who have been looting us since 1960 – they’ve been there ever since and nothing has changed,” he said.
France has some 1,500 troops in Niger in a bid to fight against jihadism in the Sahel.
“I have no job after studying in this country, because of the regime (of Bazoum), which is supported by France,” said one student who only gave his first name Oumar. “All that has to go!”
The coup has triggered alarm bells in Western countries struggling to contain a jihadist insurgency that flared in northern Mali in 2012, advanced into Niger and Burkina Faso three years later, and now threatens the borders of fragile states on the Gulf of Guinea.
Junta supporters in Niger say France has failed to shield them from the jihadists, whereas Russia would be a stronger ally.