After mutinous soldiers detained Niger’s democratically elected president, Mohamed Bazoum, on July 26, the Economic Community of West African States gave them an ultimatum: Restore democracy or face military action. Yesterday, the deadline the group had set for the military junta to reinstate the ousted president expired.
Over the weekend, many Nigeriens rallied behind their new military leaders. Tens of thousands of junta supporters thronged the largest stadium in the capital, Niamey, yesterday, hailing the name of the general who claimed to be in charge of Niger and vowing to defend the junta against any foreign intervention.
On Saturday, they stood guard at the city’s roundabouts, checking cars for evidence of foreign meddling and spying, acting on a warning from the junta of such activity.
The mutineers who were holding Bazoum said they would resist any effort to remove them from power. Niger closed its airspace yesterday, citing the threat of intervention. West African officials said that they would employ force only as a last resort, and most analysts said that a conflict appeared unlikely, at least in the near term.
Recent coups in West Africa have fanned the flames of popular anger against France, a former colonial power that critics say never really let go of its former possessions