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Pro-coup Rally in Niger After Leader Warns Against Foreign Intervention

Thousands of anti-sanctions protestors gather in support of the putschist soldiers in the capital Niamey
Thousands of anti-sanctions protestors gather in support of the putschist soldiers in the capital Niamey

NIAMEY, NIGER — Several thousand people demonstrated in the capital of Niger on Sunday in support of last month's military coup, whose leader has warned against outside intervention while proposing a three-year transition of power.

The demonstrators chanted slogans hostile to former colonial power France and the West African regional bloc ECOWAS, which is considering a potential military operation to reinstate President Mohamed Bazoum if negotiations with coup leaders fail.

The Sahel state's new military leaders have officially banned demonstrations but in practice, those in support of the coup are permitted.

The demonstrators waved placards saying "Stop the military intervention" and "No to sanctions," a reference to cuts in financial aid and trade restrictions imposed by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) since the July 26 coup.

Sunday's rally was accompanied by musicians endorsing the new military regime, AFP journalists reported.

The latest in a string of pro-coup rallies came a day after the new ruler in Niamey, General Abdourahamane Tiani, warned that a foreign military incursion into Niger would not be a "walk in the park."

In a televised address late Saturday, Tiani also said he did not want to "confiscate" power and promised a return to civilian rule within three years.

Niger's new leaders have accused France, a close Bazoum ally, of being behind the anti-coup stance taken by ECOWAS, which on Saturday made a fresh push for a diplomatic solution by sending to Niamey a delegation led by former Nigerian leader Abdulsalami Abubakar.

Unlike a previous mission in early August, this time the delegation held talks with Tiani and also met Bazoum, who is being held with his family at the presidential palace and could be facing treason charges.

Images on Niger television showed Bazoum smiling and shaking hands with members of the delegation.

"There is still hope," Abubakar said in televised comments, saying the visit had resulted in finding "a key for pursuing talks until an outcome for this difficult situation."

An ECOWAS source confirmed that the delegation had returned to the Nigerian capital Abuja on Sunday.

Diplomatic push

In his televised address on Saturday, Tiani alleged that ECOWAS was "getting ready to attack Niger by setting up an occupying army in collaboration with a foreign army," without saying which country he meant.

But he added: "If an attack were to be undertaken against us, it will not be the walk in the park some people seem to think."

Tiani also announced a 30-day period of "national dialogue" to draw up "concrete proposals" to lay the foundations of "a new constitutional life."

ECOWAS leaders say they have to act now that Niger has become the fourth West African nation since 2020 to suffer a coup, following Burkina Faso, Guinea and Mali.

The bloc has agreed to activate a "standby force" as a last resort to restore democracy in Niger.

The Sahel region is struggling with growing jihadist insurgencies linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group.

Those behind the military takeovers have pointed to frustration over the violence to justify seizing power.

On Sunday, Pope Francis urged a diplomatic solution to a political crisis in Niger and its potential impact on stability in the region.

"I join with prayer the efforts of the international community to find a peaceful solution as soon as possible for the good of everyone," Francis said in an address after his Angelus prayer in St Peter's Square in Rome.