“Protests in Niger Demand Withdrawal of U.S. Troops


….as Junta Terminates Military Accord and Embraces Russian Support”

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NIAMEY, April 13 (Reuters) – Demonstrators flooded the streets of Niger’s capital on Saturday, urging the departure of U.S. troops following the ruling junta’s decision to terminate a military agreement with the United States and welcome Russian military instructors.

Marching in solidarity through central Niamey, hundreds of protesters brandished Nigerien flags, reminiscent of anti-French demonstrations that led to the withdrawal of France’s forces from Niger last year after a military coup.

One handmade sign in English boldly proclaimed “USA rush out of Niger,” echoing the sentiment of the junta’s mid-March decision to revoke an accord allowing approximately 1,000 U.S. military personnel to operate on its territory from two bases.

“We’re here to say no to the American base, we don’t want Americans on our soil,” declared protester Maria Saley.

Historically a key security partner of France and the United States in efforts to combat the Islamist insurgency in West Africa’s Sahel region, Niger’s new authorities have aligned with neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso in terminating military agreements with Western allies.

The recent arrival of Russian military instructors and equipment underscores the junta’s shift towards closer ties with Moscow, a move perceived by some citizens as potentially leading to a permanent Russian presence in Niger.

“We must not subsequently see the implementation of Russian foreign military bases,” cautioned Abdoulaye Seydou, coordinator of the M62 coalition of civil society groups.

Despite the junta’s announcement, it remains uncertain whether and when U.S. troops will depart. The U.S. maintains a drone base known as Air Base 201 in Niger, which has been a focal point of its counterterrorism efforts in the region.

Violence in the central Sahel reached alarming levels in 2023, with conflict fatalities rising by 38% compared to the previous year, according to the U.S.-based crisis-monitoring group ACLED.

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