NIAMEY, NIGER - AUGUST 06: Mohamed Toumba, one of the leading figures of the National Council for the Protection of the Fatherland, attends the demonstration of coup supporters and greets them at a stadium in the capital city of Niger, Niamey on August 6, 2023. The 7-day deadline given by Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to the military junta on July 30 for the release and reinstatement of President Mohamed Bazum will expire before midnight. (Photo by Balima Boureima/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

What’s Happening in Niger?

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On Wednesday, July 26, a contingent of the presidential guard said on national television that Bazoum’s government was coming to an end. The army announced their backing for the coup the next day. General Abdourahmane Tchiani, the commander of the presidential guard, was proclaimed the new head of the nation on Friday when the leaders of the coup suspended the constitution. 

A number of coups have occurred in recent years, the most recent of which is this one in Niger. Protests by the armed forces have shook West Africa lately. Ten coup attempts occurred in Africa in 2021, four of which were successful. September 2021 in Guinea, January and September 2022 in Burkina Faso, and August 2020 and May 2021 in Mali have all been toppled by renegade military in the last three years.  

Several neighbours and international allies, such as the US, the UN, the African Union, the European Union, and the former colonial power France, have strongly denounced the military takeover in Niger.

Eleven members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) threatened “recourse to force” on July 30, during an unprecedented conference that took place in the Nigerian capital of Abuja.

Ever since, the notion of a military intervention on the ground, supported by aircraft and featuring a sizable Nigerian component, has ceased to be just theoretical. According to official utility documentation, Nigeria shut off power to Niger on Wednesday. Seventy percent of Niger’s power comes from Nigeria, making it one of the world’s poorest nations.

Uncertain about the response from the Nigeriens, thousands of junta supporters cheered the name of the Russian president and angrily denounced the former colonial power France as they marched through the streets of Niamey, the country’s capital, on Sunday. 

Emigration from Niger is underway for hundreds of European nationals. Work on the evacuation of their own nationals is underway in several other European countries concurrently. On Monday, August 7, Niger closed its airspace as the deadline from ECOWAS passed, and they expect military intervention.

Points to note

  • Niger’s democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum was overthrown by the presidential guards who were supposed to protect him, and Gen Abdourahmane Tchiani has been installed as head of state.
  • Niger is the largest country in West Africa and had been seen as a relatively stable democracy in the region.
  • The coup has been linked to the deteriorating security situation caused by violent Islamist groups in the Sahel region, which includes Mali and Burkina Faso.
  • Niger is strategically important due to its hosting of French and US military bases and its role in fighting Islamist insurgents.
  • Economically, Niger is rich in uranium, accounting for 7% of global supplies, but its people have some of the lowest living standards in the world.
  • France, the US, African Union, and other international entities have condemned the coup and called for the restoration of constitutional order and the democratically elected government.
  • Wagner mercenaries, known for their malign influence, have been active in the region and have been linked to the coup in Niger.
  • Concerns arise that Niger’s new leadership may pivot towards Russia, following Burkina Faso and Mali, potentially impacting its relationships with Western allies.
  • The coup could affect Niger’s partnership with European countries in managing migration and human trafficking in the region.

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