Niger coup supporters protest West African military force
Thousands of Niger coup supporters took to the streets on Friday to protest against plans by West African nations to deploy a military force to the country, as a key regional meeting on a possible intervention was scrapped.
ECOWAS had approved a "standby force" to reinstate elected President Mohamed Bazoum, with the EU's top diplomat expressing concern about his conditions in detention since he was ousted by members of his guard on July 26.
Chiefs of staff from member states of the West African bloc had been set to attend a meeting on Saturday in Ghana's capital Accra, regional military sources had said on Friday.
But they later said the meeting had been suspended indefinitely for "technical reasons".
The sources said the meeting was originally set up to inform the organisation's leaders about "the best options" for activating and deploying the standby force.
ECOWAS has yet to provide details on the force or a timetable for action, and the leaders have emphasised they still want a peaceful solution.
The last-minute cancellation came as thousands of coup supporters rallied near a French military base in Niger on Friday.
Protesters near the base on the outskirts of the capital Niamey shouted "Down with France, down with ECOWAS".
Niger's new leaders have accused former colonial power France, a close Bazoum ally, of being behind the hardline ECOWAS stance against the coup.
Many protesters brandished Russian and Niger flags and shouted their support for the country's new strongman, General Abdourahamane Tiani.
"We are going to make the French leave! ECOWAS isn't independent, it's being manipulated by France," said one demonstrator, Aziz Rabeh Ali, a member of a students' union.