Niger junta suspends French broadcasts as citizens protest foreign sanctions

Supporters of Niger’s junta protested against foreign sanctions in the capital Niamey on Thursday, as France condemned the new authorities’ suspension of major French television and radio broadcasters in the country.

Like coups in neighboring Burkina Faso and Mali, last week’s military takeover in Niger came amid a growing wave of anti-French sentiment with some locals accusing the former colonial ruler of interfering in their affairs.

General Abdourahamane Tchiani, the former head of Niger’s presidential guard, confined President Mohamed Bazoum to his residence last week and declared himself head of state in the seventh coup in West and Central Africa since 2020.

Niger’s regional and Western partners, including France, have imposed sweeping sanctions in an effort to pressure the junta to restore constitutional order.

But Tchiani has said he will not back down.

In a sign of this resistance to one-time allies, Niger on Thursday suspended broadcasts of French state-funded international news outlets France 24 and RFI – drawing condemnation from the French foreign ministry.

The move echoes similar post-coup crackdowns on French media by the juntas in Mali and Burkina Faso.

Earlier on Thursday hundreds of protesters marched in Niamey to show their opposition to the foreign pressure on coup leaders. In addition to sanctions, the main regional bloc, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), has said it could authorize the use of force if soldiers did not restore Bazoum to power by Sunday.

One of the demonstrators in Niamey held a placard that said: “Long live Niger, Russia, Mali and Burkina. Down with France, ECOWAS, EU.” Others waved Russian flags as they gathered outside the National Assembly.

France has between 1,000 and 1,500 troops in Niger, helping to fight an insurgency by groups linked to al Qaeda and the Islamic State that has spread across the region. After their coups, Burkina Faso and Mali kicked out French troops, many of whom are now stationed in Niger.

“We are going to demonstrate to all the ECOWAS countries and all those who are taking inhumane and unpopular measures against Niger, which is in the process of freeing itself from the yoke of colonization,” another protester, who did not give his name, told Reuters.

In an address on Wednesday, Tchiani called the sanctions “inhumane”, saying he rejected any foreign interference but was open to dialogue within the country.

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