OE Watch Commentary: On 25 February the French language website slateafrique.com reported on protests in Niger that have seen protesters carrying messages opposing the foreign military presence in Niger, among other issues. According to the article, a new finance law in the country has been criticized because it will lead to higher prices for goods and services. The article, however, does not explain the specific details about the finance law, but instead focuses on the chants that emerged from the protests against the finance law.
The article says that the protests quickly saw chants not only against the finance law, but also against foreign bases in the country. However, the article does not indicate that the protesters viewed the foreign bases as an excessively costly expenditure or related to the finance law in any way. Rather, political opposition parties that joined the protests began raising the issue of the French, US and German militaries that have bases and conduct operations in Niger. The protesters called for these foreign armies to “go away.”
From the article it appears, therefore, that the protests are not about any maltreatment by the foreign militaries in Niger, but that the issue is being used as a wedge issue to rally protesters to the side of opposition parties. The article notes that, in response, a coalition of the ruling parties was planning counter-demonstrations. While foreign militaries have not been blamed for any particular incident to warrant protests, their presence in Niger is a new political issue which deserves continued attention. End OE Watch Commentary (Zenn)
Several thousand people demonstrated Sunday in Niamey and the major cities of Niger to demand the abrogation of the 2018 finance law and the departure of foreign forces based in the country. “Down with the ruthless finance law!”, “Down with the unjust finance law!”, “Foreign forces down!”, “French, American and German armies, go away!”, chanted protesters in Niamey, responding to the call of a coalition of civil society organizations.
For the first time, the political opposition and three trade unions (out of the ten in the country), had called their militants to take part in the demonstrations. One of the main leaders of the protests described the military bases, in particular of America and France, as occupation forces that are present in Niger as part of the fight against the jihadists.
To respond to these waves of protest, the coalition of ruling parties is planning a counter-demonstration.