Volunteers to Help Niger Junta Overwhelm Organizers

US ambassador, delegation from West Africa nations arrive to try to head off fighting
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 19, 2023 4:30 PM CDT
Volunteers to Help Niger Junta Overwhelm Organizers
ECOWAS Commissioner Abdel-Fatau Musah, center, speaks during a press briefing on Friday about the situation in Niger in Accra, Ghana.   (AP Photo/Richard Eshun Nanaresh)

A call for civilians to support Niger's junta against a possible military intervention by West African nations brought too many volunteers to count, resulting in a halt to the process. The crowd gathered Saturday outside a stadium in Niamey was larger than the organizers had anticipated, Reuters reports. "In all our calculations and our understandings, we never thought we could mobilize" so many people, said Younoussa Hima of the Mobilization of Young People for the Fatherland initiative. "So it is really difficult for us today to do this work. That is what made us halt this census."

Leaders of the coup placed President Mohammed Bazoum under house arrest last month. The ECOWAS nations of West Africa have threatened military action against the junta if he is not reinstated and said the bloc has set a deadline it did not publicly disclose. In an effort to resolve the standoff peacefully, an ECOWAS delegation arrived in the capital and met for the first time with the junta's leader on Saturday. An official said 11 of the coalition's 15 members have committed troops, per the AP, pronouncing the force "ready to go." The outcome of the meeting was not released.

Ambassador Kathleen FitzGibbon arrived in Niger on Saturday to lead the US negotiating effort, per CNN, touted by the State Department as a career diplomat who has specialized in West Africa. Acting Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland traveled there earlier but had no success; she was blocked from seeing Bazoum. The organizers of the drive Saturday said they weren't signing up military recruits, just building a list of civilians willing to contribute their skills in the event of fighting. "They called on the youth to respond to a possible attack on our soil," a supportive blogger wrote. "And we are ready for any attack." (Read more Niger stories.)

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