Why do the people of Niger want to welcome Russia over France

Why do the people of Niger want to welcome Russia over France

Why do the people of Niger want to welcome Russia over France?

After the military coup in the African country itself, hostility towards the Western world is increasing in that country. A businessman was recently seen proudly displaying himself dressed in the colors of the Russian flag, even in an area that has strong support for ousted President Mohamed Bazum.

Ever since this coup itself, there has been a fierce war of words between the Western countries and the country’s military.

Deposed President Mr. Bazum has been a close ally of Western countries in their country’s fight against Islamist militants. At the same time, he also developed close economic relations with these countries.

France has a military base in Niger. The country owns the seventh-largest uranium producer in the world. It is one of the most important elements for generating nuclear power. A quarter of the uranium produced in Niger is exported to Europe. Most of this goes to former colonial power France.

On July 26, General Abdurrahmane Tichiani overthrew Niger’s president in a coup. Then the Russian flag suddenly appeared on the street.

Thousands of people took part in a protest demonstration in the capital Niamey last Sunday. There were many people holding Russian flags. That day some people even attacked the French embassy.

Now it seems that this ‘movement’ is now spreading across the country.

The businessman in Zinder, a town 800 kilometers from the capital, who was dressed in the colors of the Russian flag, declined to be named for security reasons and asked that his face be blurred in the photo.

 “They have exploited all the resources of our country – everything from uranium, petrol, and gold. It is because of this France that the poor people of my country do not get three meals a day.”

The businessman said that thousands of people joined the demonstration in Jinder town on Monday in support of the military coup.

He said he asked a local tailor to make him a dress with the colors of the Russian flag, white, blue, and red. He denied that two pro-Russian groups had funded the creation of the outfit.

Niger’s population is 2.44 million. Two out of every five people in the country live in extreme poverty.

President Bajum came to power in 2021 after winning an election. It was being described as the country’s first democratic and peaceful transition since independence in 1960.

But his government has become the target of attacks by Islamist militants linked to the Islamic State group and al-Qaeda. These militant groups operate in parts of the Sahara desert and the semi-arid regions of the southern Sahel region.

Niger’s two neighboring countries, Mali and Burkina Faso, are also former French colonies. Both these countries were struggling to deal with attacks by Islamic militants. In both these countries, the military seized power through coups in recent years. It is argued that the military has seized power to fight militancy.

Like Niger, these two countries also had a significant presence of French troops. French troops were helping to fight Islamist militants. But as the militant attacks continued, anti-French sentiments grew there. People in all three countries complained that France was not doing enough to fight Islamist militants.

After the military seized power in Mali, it expelled French troops. Then they called in the Wagner Group, a Russian mercenary army. Mali is also pressuring UN peacekeepers to leave the country.

In Mali, however, attacks by Islamist militants continue. Meanwhile, Burkina Faso’s government also grew closer to Russia and expelled hundreds of French troops.

Former President Mr. Bazum’s government often outlawed anti-French protests in Niger.

In the middle of last year, some civil organizations in Niger started anti-French protests. When French troops were ordered to leave Mali, Mr. Bazum’s administration decided to deploy these troops to Niger. Then the protest started.

M-62 Movement is one of the prominent among these civil organizations. A group of political activists founded the organization in August 2022 by bringing together various civic movements and trade unions. They called for a movement against the rising cost of living, misrule, and the presence of French troops in Niger.

But various demonstrations of this coalition were either banned or suppressed by the Niger government through violent force. The leader of the movement, Abdolae Seidu, was arrested last April and sentenced to nine months in prison on charges of ‘disturbing public order’.

M-62 has now been re-invigorated after the ouster of President Bazum.

Activists of the organization were seen on state television calling for mass mobilization on behalf of the military junta. At the same time, they also criticized the sanctions imposed by the Western world against the leaders of West African countries due to the coup.

It is not clear what relationship this M-62 has with the National Council for Safeguarding the Homeland (CNSP), which came to power through a coup in Niger, or with Russia.

However, this organization was the main organizer of the protest that took place in the capital on Sunday. Other civic organizations also participated, including the Coordination Committee for the Democratic Struggle (CCLD), Bakata, and Youth Action for Self.

A pro-Russian businessman from the city of Jinder, however, is hopeful that Moscow will help his country.

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