Thousands of supporters of the military coup in Niger gathered at a Niamey stadium Sunday, when a deadline set by the West African regional bloc ECOWAS to return the deposed President Mohamed Bazoum to power is set to expire.
A delegation of members of the now-ruling National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP) arrived at the 30,000-seat stadium to cheers from supporters, many of whom carried in Russian flags and portraits of CNSP leaders.
The stadium, named after Seyni Kountche, who led Niger's first coup d'etat in 1974, was almost full and the atmosphere was festive, journalists saw.
General Mohamed Toumba, one of the CNSP leaders, denounced in a speech those "lurking in the shadows" who were "plotting subversion" against "the forward march of Niger".
"We are aware of their Machiavellian plan," he said.
The demonstration coincides with the ultimatum set by ECOWAS on July 30 for the coup leaders to reinstate Bazoum.
But so far, the generals who seized power in Niamey on July 26 have shown no sign of willingness to give way.
ECOWAS military chiefs had agreed to a plan Friday for a possible military intervention to respond to the crisis, with the armies of countries including Senegal and Ivory Coast saying they were ready to participate.
Neighboring Nigeria’s Senate on Saturday pushed back against the plan by the regional bloc known as ECOWAS, urging Nigeria’s president, the bloc’s current chair, to explore options other than the use of force.
ECOWAS can still move ahead, as final decisions are taken by consensus by member states, but the warning on the eve of Sunday’s deadline raised questions about the intervention’s fate.
The coup has been widely condemned by Western and African nations, though Niger's military received support from their counterparts in Mali and Burkina Faso -- both countries which saw military coups take power in the past three years.
Niger`s military junta closes country’s airspace as ECOWAS ultimatum expires
Niger's military junta announced Sunday the decision to close the country's airspace, as the deadline set by the Economic Community of Western African States (ECOWAS) to return the deposed President Mohamed Bazoum to power expired.
Niger’s airspace was closed due to “the threat of intervention from a neighboring country,” said the spokesperson for the now-ruling National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP), Colonel Major Amadou Abdramane, in a video statement played on state television.
According to CNSP's statement, the West African regional bloc has completed its preparations for an invasion of Niger with at least two members of the organization beginning the mobilization of their Armed Forces towards the border of Niger.
Niger's military rulers have so far refused to cede power as requested by ECOWAS defense ministers, who set a Sunday deadline for the release and return to power of deposed President Mohamed Bazoum, who was elected in February 2021.