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Niger: March in Niamey against presence of French army

Some 3,000 French troops are still deployed in the Sahel - with many moving to Niger in August after being kicked out of Mali   -  
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BOUREIMA HAMA/AFP or licensors


Several hundred people demonstrated peacefully Sunday in the streets of the Nigerien capital Niamey, to protest against the French anti-jihadist force Barkhane, while praising Russia, a journalist from AFP noted.

With cries of "Barkhane out", "Down with France", "Long live Putin and Russia", the demonstrators went through some streets of the capital before holding a meeting in front of the headquarters of the National Assembly.

Some demonstrators carried Russian flags and held up signs hostile to France and Barkhane.

Some of the placards read "Get out of the criminal French army" or "The colonial army Barkhane must go" in this demonstration authorized by the municipal authorities of Niamey.

Some 3,000 French troops are still deployed in the Sahel - including Niger, one of Paris' main allies - after their total withdrawal from Mali.

The Barkhane force had been ousted by the junta in power in Mali since 2020, which is suspected of working with the Russian paramilitary group Wagner.

In April, Niger's deputies had largely voted in favor of a text authorizing the deployment of foreign forces on the territory, including French, to fight jihadists.

"There are anti-French slogans because we demand the immediate departure of the Barkhane force in Niger, which is alienating our sovereignty and destabilizing the Sahel," Seydou Abdoulaye, the coordinator of the M62 Movement, which is organizing the demonstration, told AFP.

Wearing a T-shirt bearing the image of Burkina Faso's former revolutionary president Thomas Sankara, he accused the former colonial power of "active support" for "jihadists who have spread terrorism from Mali," which borders Niger and Burkina Faso.

Last month, the Malian government accused France of supporting jihadist groups, statements that were "insulting" to Paris.

In recent months, several anti-French demonstrations have taken place in the Sahel, notably at the end of November 2021 when a Barkhane military convoy was blocked and stoned in Burkina Faso and then in Niger.

Three demonstrators were killed in Téra, in western Niger, in shootings blamed by the Nigerien government on its forces or on French forces.

Sunday's demonstration was also aimed at protesting the cost of living in Niger, where a recent increase in the price of diesel fuel has quickly affected the price of some commodities. According to M62 leaders, another demonstration took place Sunday in Dosso, a town in southwestern Niger.

Niger faces regular and deadly attacks by jihadist groups linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group in the Sahel in the west and by Boko Haram and the Islamic State group in West Africa (Iswap) in the southeast.

The country has for years been home to several foreign military bases, including French and U.S. bases, dedicated to the fight against jihadists in the Sahel.

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