Niger Republic, a small and poor country in West Africa, has been thrust into the global spotlight after a military coup toppled its democratically elected president, Mohamed Bazoum, on July 26, 2023.
The coup has sparked widespread condemnation and concern from the international community, as well as a diplomatic crisis with some of Niger’s closest allies.
In this article, we will explore the background, the aftermath, and the implications of Niger’s coup, and reveal some shocking details that you won’t find anywhere else.
The Rise and Fall of Bazoum: How Niger Achieved and Lost Democracy
Niger had been seen as an example of relative democratic stability and progress in recent years.
Bazoum, a former interior minister and close ally of former president Mahamadou Issoufou, won the presidential election in February 2023 with 55.6% of the vote.
He was the first elected leader to succeed another in Niger since independence in 1960.
His main rival, Mahamane Ousmane, a former president who ruled from 1993 to 1996, rejected the results and claimed fraud.
Bazoum’s inauguration on April 2, 2023 was marred by violence, as supporters of Ousmane clashed with security forces in the capital, Niamey, and other cities.
The government accused Ousmane of inciting a “failed coup” and arrested several of his allies. Ousmane denied any involvement and called for dialogue and peaceful protests.
The situation remained tense in the following months, as Bazoum faced multiple challenges at home and abroad.
Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world, with a population of about 24 million people, most of whom live on less than $2 a day.
It is also plagued by insecurity and humanitarian crises, as it hosts more than 450,000 refugees and displaced people from neighboring countries such as Mali, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, and Libya.
Niger is also a key partner in the fight against Islamist militants in the Sahel region, hosting French and US military bases and troops.
However, Bazoum’s rule came to an abrupt end on July 26, 2023, when he was detained by members of the Presidential Guard, who stormed his residence and took him to an undisclosed location.
That evening, the military announced that it had seized power and formed a junta called the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP).
They suspended the constitution, dissolved all institutions, and closed the borders.
They also appointed Gen. Abdourahamane Tchiani, the commander of Niger’s presidential guard, as the head of state.
The coup leaders have not revealed their motives or their plans for the future of Niger.
They have only said that they acted to “put an end to the regime you know” and to “restore democracy and social justice”.
They have also promised to organize a “transition” that will lead to “free and transparent elections”.
The Diplomatic Fallout: How Niger Cut Off Ties with Nigeria, Togo, France, and the US
The international community has condemned the coup and called for the immediate release of Bazoum and his family.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a regional bloc that includes Niger and Nigeria, has issued a seven-day ultimatum for the reinstatement of Bazoum to avoid possible sanctions.
ECOWAS has also sent a high-level delegation to Niger to mediate between the coup leaders and the government.
The delegation is led by former Nigerian president Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd), who is accompanied by ECOWAS Commission President Jean-Claude Kassi Brou and ECOWAS Special Envoy for Mali Goodluck Jonathan.
However, the mediation efforts have not yielded any positive results so far.
The delegation only met with representatives of the CNSP on Thursday, August 3, 2023, but not with Bazoum or Tchiani.
The CNSP has also rejected any external interference or pressure and insisted on its sovereignty.
In a surprising move, Niger has cut off ties with four of its major allies: Nigeria, Togo, France, and the United States.
These countries have been supporting Niger in various areas such as security, development, trade, and diplomacy.
Niger’s decision to sever ties with them could have serious implications for its stability and regional cooperation.
Nigeria is Niger’s southern neighbor and largest trading partner. The two countries share a long border of about 1,500 km and have close cultural and historical ties.
Nigeria has been providing humanitarian assistance to Niger’s refugees and displaced people, as well as cooperating with Niger in combating cross-border terrorism and crime.
Togo is another West African neighbor of Niger and a member of ECOWAS. Togo has been hosting thousands of Nigerien migrants who work in various sectors such as agriculture, mining, construction, and services.
France is Niger’s former colonial power and its main ally in Europe. France has been supporting Niger’s development through aid and investment projects worth billions of euros.
France has also been leading the military intervention in the Sahel region since 2013 under Operation Barkhane, which involves about 5,000 French troops stationed in Niger and four other countries: Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, and Mauritania.
The United States is Niger’s main ally in North America and a strategic partner in the fight against terrorism.
The US has been providing Niger with military and security assistance, as well as humanitarian and development aid.
The US also operates a drone base in Niger’s northern city of Agadez, which is used for surveillance and counter-terrorism missions in the region.
The reasons behind Niger’s decision to cut off ties with these countries are not clear, but some analysts have speculated that it could be a sign of the CNSP’s alignment with Russia, which has been expanding its influence and presence in Africa.
Russia has been offering military and economic support to several African countries, especially those facing sanctions or isolation from the West.
Russia has also been accused of backing mercenaries from the Wagner Group, a private security company linked to the Kremlin, to intervene in conflicts and protect its interests in countries such as Libya, Central African Republic, Sudan, and Mozambique.
The Future of Niger: What Lies Ahead for the Country and the Region
The coup in Niger has raised fears of further instability and violence in the Sahel region, which is already facing multiple threats from Islamist insurgents, ethnic militias, criminal gangs, climate change, and poverty.
The coup has also undermined the democratic gains and hopes that Niger had achieved in recent years.
The fate of Niger and its people now depends on the outcome of the ongoing negotiations between the CNSP and ECOWAS, as well as the reactions and actions of its allies and neighbors.
Will the CNSP respect its promise to hold free and fair elections and hand over power to a civilian government?
Will Bazoum be released and restored to his position?
Will Niger restore its relations with Nigeria, Togo, France, and the US?
Will Russia take advantage of the situation to increase its influence in Niger and the region?
Will the security situation deteriorate or improve in the face of the coup?
Will the people of Niger be able to enjoy peace, democracy, and development?
These are some of the questions that will shape the future of Niger and the region in the coming months. We will keep you updated on the latest developments and provide you with insightful analysis and commentary on this unfolding story. Stay tuned for more exclusive reports from our correspondents on the ground.
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