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West African nation stages protests against US military presence

Organizers praised Niger’s rulers for diversifying ties with nations, including Russia, that respect the state’s sovereignty

Thousands of demonstrators, including government officials, rallied in Niger’s capital, Niamey, on Saturday, demanding the withdrawal of the US Army from the West African nation, which kicked French troops out last year. 

The protests took place in support of the Nigerien military government’s decision on March 16 to terminate a military accord with Washington, accusing it of attempting to deny Niamey the right to choose its partners and the types of cooperation that can help in its fight against terrorism. The decade-long cooperation deal had authorized some 1,000 American troops and civilian contractors to operate in the landlocked country. 

“We said no to the French; they ended up packing up and going. Today, we say no to the American military presence; they will leave too,” Colonel Ibro Amadou, a member of the military government, told the crowd of protesters, according to state outlet Le Sahel.

Since President Mohamed Bazoum was deposed in a coup last July, the former French colony’s new leadership has been reviewing cooperation with Western partners that were previously engaged by the overthrown civilian government. Former colonial power France completed its troop withdrawal in December on the orders of Niamey’s military rulers, citing alleged internal interference and a failure to combat Islamic terrorists in the Sahel region.

Washington, on the other hand, has insisted on maintaining pragmatic relations with Niamey’s military regime, ruling out disengagement from the African nation. The Pentagon has stated that it is “following up and seeking clarification” from Nigerien authorities regarding the annulment of the military pact, while also seeking a way for American troops to remain in the country. 

Niamey has turned to Russia for security, despite the US expressing concerns about the military leaders’ relations with Moscow. Last month, transitional leader Abdourahamane Tchiani and Russian President Vladimir Putin committed to coordinating efforts to combat terrorism in the Sahel. Local media reports last week also claimed that a Russian military cargo plane had transported a team of instructors and various equipment to assist the Nigerien Army with counterterrorism training. 

On Saturday, the Synergy of Nigerien Civil Society Organizations, which organized the protests against the US military presence, commended Niamey’s coup leaders for standing up to “imperialist nations” that have suppressed the country’s socioeconomic, security, and cultural interests. 

According to Mohamed El Kebir, the president of the civil society coalition, partnerships with Western governments have prevented Niger from breaking free from its reliance on aid since gaining independence from France in 1960. 

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FILE PHOTO.
Washington working on way to keep troops in African state

Kebir claimed an “exponential number” of civilians and Nigerien military compatriots had been killed by an “imported mercantile terrorism force” over the past ten years since the deployment of foreign troops.

“As proof, the presence of the impressive military arsenal of the Pentagon and the CIA made up of drones, satellites and the free provision of our radio spectrum through political irresponsibility of the regime at the time never made it possible to avoid these many tragedies,” he stated.

“This is the place to welcome the fruitful cooperation with the brotherly countries of the AES [Alliance of Sahel States] and Togo, as well as Turkey, Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, India, Pakistan, and all those who have shown us their solidarity in the dynamic initiated to safeguard our homeland,” the activist declared.

April 15, 2024 at 03:35PM
RT

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