Petition Against French Troops’ Presence in Niger Launched After Protest Rally Banned in Capital

Oleg Burunov
On Monday, France withdrew its troops from Mali, bringing its anti-terror Operation Barkhane, which kicked off in 2017, to a close, and relocating its headquarters to Niger.

Niger’s M62 public movement, consisting of 15 NGOs, has launched a petition against the presence of France’s Barkhane force in the country after the authorities banned a protest rally that its organizers planned to hold in the state capital Niamey, according to the newspaper La Nouvelle Tribune.

The petition has reportedly urged Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum to make French forces leave Niger, also referring to “any other evil force whose objective is to destabilize and/or plunder the resources of our country and the Sahel.” The Sahel region of Africa, located immediately south of the Sahara includes parts of Mali, Niger, Mauritania, Senegal, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Chad, Nigeria, and Cameroon.

M62 said in a statement that “considering the multiple assassinations of our civilian populations by the Barkhane force driven out of Mali and illegally present on our territory, which it considers conquered […] , let us reiterate our opposition to the French military presence in our country and demand its immediate departure.”

According to M62, instead of the banned demonstration, they had decided to organize a day of fasting and three days of prayer as of Wednesday.

The rally was banned after a coalition of 15 NGOs in Niger planned to hold a demonstration to say “no” to Barkhane troops’ presence in the West African nation.

The demonstration was being planned under the auspices of the M62 movement, which describes itself as a “peaceful” group, committed to “the dignity and sovereignty of the Nigerien people.”

This was preceded by France withdrawing its troops from Mali on Monday and bringing its anti-terror Operation Barkhane, which kicked off in 2017, to a close, something that was followed by moving the French headquarters to Niger.

French Minister of the Armed Forces Sebastian Lecornu, for his part, tweeted that “France’s commitment to the fight against terrorism in the Sahel will continue. This is the meaning of the new agenda that Emmanuel Macron wishes with Africa, which will be based on reinforced cooperation with the countries of the area, e.g., Niger,” Lecornu said.

Malian Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop has, meanwhile, accused France of supporting terrorist groups inside his country, urging the UN Security Council (UNSC) to convene an urgent meeting for Bamako to present its evidence.

In a letter to the UNSC, a copy of which was obtained by Sputnik, the top Malian diplomat stressed that since the beginning of 2022, French aircraft have illegally crossed Malian airspace more than 50 times.
“The government of Mali has several pieces of evidence that these flagrant violations of Malian airspace were used by France to collect intelligence for the benefit of terrorist groups operating in the Sahel and to drop arms and ammunition on them,” the letter, in particular, noted.