Niger’s capital was calm on Sunday, with citizens appearing undaunted by the threat of military intervention by West Africa’s regional bloc, as its ultimatum for the country’s coup leaders to reinstate the president expires.
On Niamey’s streets there were sporadic displays of support for but no signs of opposition to the junta, which has said it will not cave in to external pressure to stand down following the July 26 power grab.
The seventh coup in West and Central Africa in three years has rocked the western Sahel region, one of the poorest in the world and which has strategic significance for Russia, China and the West partly due to Niger’s rich uranium and oil deposits.
Blasting military tunes and tooting vuvuzela horns, over 100 people set up a picket near an air base in Niamey on Saturday evening and pledged to offer non-violent resistance in support of the new army-led administration if needed.
Defence chiefs of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) agreed on military action on July 30, including when and where to strike, if the detained President, Mohamed Bazoum, was not released and reinstated by Sunday.
ECOWAS did not respond to a request for comment on what its next steps would be, or when exactly on Sunday its deadline expires. A spokesman said it would issue a statement at the end of the day.
On the picket line, where organisers led chants of ‘Vive Niger’, much of the emotion appeared directed against ECOWAS as well as former colonial power France, which said on Saturday it would support regional efforts to overturn the coup, without specifying if that included military assistance.