Insightful stories of the most pressing local, regional, and international developments brought to you by Sputnik.

'Not Imposition or Dictate': Burkinabe Defense Minister Comments on Russian Flags Raised in Africa

Kassoum Coulibaly lors de son interview exclusive à Sputnik Afrique
Kassoum Coulibaly lors de son interview exclusive à Sputnik Afrique - Sputnik Africa, 1920, 19.08.2023
Following the military coup in Niger at the end of July, a wave of pro-coup demonstrations swept the country. Along with the support of the military leaders, Nigeriens expressed anti-French sentiments, chanting anti-French slogans, and waved the Russian tricolor in favor of closer ties with Moscow.
The Russian flags during the demonstrations in support of the recent military coup in Niger are not the result of "an imposition or a dictate" of the military leaders; people took them out themselves, Kassoum Coulibaly, Burkina Faso's Minister of Defense, told Sputnik Africa in an exclusive interview.

"The population is demonstrating, people are going out and demonstrating. Is it the leaders of the three countries [Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali], who are telling people to get out their Russian flags? [...] It's them who are shouting, but it's not an imposition or a dictate from the chief authorities, it's the people who are demonstrating," the minister said.

Coulibaly added that the authorities try to channel people during the rallies to prevent possible damages, citing the protest at the French Embassy in Niger in late July as an example.

"We're letting the people be aware enough, mature enough, perhaps we need to channel them to avoid breaking things, and that's what we're doing at the moment. I've even seen this in Niger, where my colleague from the Ministry of Defense is himself obliged to go in front of the French embassy to prevent break-ins. [...] We do the best we can to try and channel people, but it's often misunderstood," the official noted.

Protesters in Niger waving Russian and Nigerien flags.  - Sputnik Africa, 1920, 11.08.2023
Situation in Niger After Military Coup
'Every Time We Have Demonstration, Russian Flags Must Fly': Niger's Protesters
On July 26, Niger's presidential guard ousted and detained President Mohamed Bazoum. The guard's commander, Gen. Abdourahmane Tchiani, proclaimed himself interim leader and the president of the caretaker National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP).
Following the coup, on July 30, thousands of people gathered in front of the French Embassy in the capital of Niger, Niamey, calling for the closure of the foreign military bases and chanting various slogans, including: "Down with France." The protesters reportedly tore off the sign of the mission and waved the Russian and Nigerien flags near the facility.
Moreover, on August 4, students of the Abdou Moumouni University in Niamey took to the streets of the capital city in response to the sanctions imposed by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on the coup-hit state and the bloc's intention to deploy troops on its territory.
After the overturn of President Bazoum, ECOWAS suspended all financial aid to Niger, froze rebels' assets and imposed a ban on commercial flights to and from the country.
On Friday, general staff chiefs of the ECOWAS have agreed on a date for the start of the military intervention in Niger, but have not made it public as of Saturday.