Niger’s capital remained peaceful on Sunday, with inhabitants looking unfazed by West Africa’s regional bloc’s threat of military involvement as the country’s coup leaders’ deadline to reinstall the president expired.
There were intermittent expressions of support for the junta on Niamey’s streets, but no evidence of resistance to the junta, which has stated it would not bow to foreign pressure to step down following the July 26 power grab.
The western Sahel area, one of the poorest in the world and strategically important for Russia, China, and the West due to Niger’s huge uranium and oil resources, has been shaken by the sixth coup in three years.
Over 100 people put up a picket outside an air base in Niamey on Saturday evening, blasting military anthems and tooting vuvuzela horns, and vowed to offer nonviolent resistance in support of the new army-led administration if necessary.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) defence chiefs decided on military action on July 30, including when and where to attack if jailed President Mohamed Bazoum is not released and reinstalled by Sunday.
ECOWAS did not react to a request for comment on its future moves or when the deadline ends on Sunday. A representative stated that a statement would be issued at the conclusion of the day.
On the picket line, where organisers led cries of ‘Vive Niger,’ most of the anger appeared to be directed at ECOWAS as well as former colonial power France, which announced on Saturday that it would back regional attempts to overthrow the coup but did not specify whether this meant military assistance.
“The Nigerien people have realized that these imperialists want to destroy us.” And, God willing, they will bear the brunt of the consequences,” added the elderly Amadou Adamou.
Sunday’s television broadcasts included a roundtable discussion on how to foster cooperation in the face of approaching ECOWAS sanctions, which have resulted in power outages and skyrocketing food costs.
The bloc’s military vow has sparked worries of fresh violence in a territory already besieged by a murderous Islamist insurgency that has killed hundreds and driven millions from their homes.
“I am not concerned because I am aware that any ECOWAS military intervention in Niger would be a loss for this organisation.” It is not in the interests of its leaders,” Hadjo Hadjia, 59, told Reuters on a quiet Niamey street.
Any military action by ECOWAS might be hampered by juntas in neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso promising to come to Niger’s aid if necessary.
Ouhoumoudou Mahamadou, Prime Minister of Bazoum, declared on Saturday in Paris that the deposed leadership still felt a last-minute accord was feasible.
Italy announced on Sunday that it had decreased personnel numbers in Niger in order to make room in its military installation for Italians who may require protection if security deteriorates.