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Dhaka Tribune

Niger coup bid: What we know so far

Niger has been rocked by what could be its fifth coup since it gained independence from France in 1960

Update : 27 Jul 2023, 10:53 PM

Niger's army command on Thursday officially backed the soldiers in their coup attempt.

A group of soldiers in Niger had claimed on Wednesday to have overthrown the country's democratically-elected President Mohamed Bazoum.

Colonel-Major Amadou Abdramane said Niger's Presidential Guard had detained Bazoum.

"This follows the continued deterioration of the security situation, poor economic and social governance," the air force colonel-major said in a televised address.

Regional and global leaders swiftly condemned the coup attempt and have called for Bazoum to be released.

What's the latest?

The military said in a statement signed by its chief of staff that it had "decided to adhere to the... declaration" made by soldiers committing the coup.

The army said Bazoum's "physical integrity" must be preserved in order to avoid "a deadly confrontation... that could create a bloodbath and affect the security of the population."      

On Thursday, Bazoum had said Niger's "hard-won" democratic gains will be safeguarded.

"All Nigeriens who love democracy and freedom would want this," he said on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

Meanwhile, Niger's Foreign Minister Hassoumi Massoudou called on "all democrats and patriots" to make this "perilous adventure" fail.

In an interview with France24, Massoudou said the democratically-elected government was still the "legitimate and legal authority" in the West African country.

He also said the "coup bid" had not been supported by all members of the armed forces.

"We ask all the fractious soldiers to return to their ranks," Massoudou said. "Everything can be achieved through dialogue but the institutions of the republic must function." 

What's the situation on the ground in Niger?

Abdramane, speaking on behalf of the mutinous soldiers, said Niger's borders have been closed and that "all institutions" in the country would be suspended.

A curfew has also been imposed from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. "until further notice."

The president's office on Wednesday claimed that Bazoum and his family "are well," referring to the soldiers' coup attempt as "a fit of temper"

"The army and national guard are ready to attack the elements of the Presidential Guard who are involved in this fit of temper if they do not return to a better disposition," the presidency said.

But when a group of Bazoum's supporters tried to approach the presidential complex in the capital Niamey on Wednesday, they were dispersed by members of the mutinous Presidential Guard who fired warning shots, injuring at least one person, the AFP news agency reported.

How has the international community reacted?

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) — of which Niger is a member— swiftly condemned the coup attempt. Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, who is currently the ECOWAS chair, said in a statement that the regional bloc "will do everything within our powers to ensure democracy is firmly planted."

Benin's President Patrice Talon flew into Niamey on Wednesday after meeting with Tinubu. "All means will be used, if necessary, to restore constitutional order in Niger, but the ideal would be for everything to be done in peace and harmony," Talon told reporters ahead of his trip.

Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres spoke to Bazoum on Wednesday afternoon to express "his full support and solidarity," a UN spokesperson said. Guterres later demanded the putschists release Bazoum "immediately and unconditionally."

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he also spoke with Bazoum. Blinken told reporters on Thursday said he "made clear that we strongly support him as the democratically elected president of the country."

The foreign minister of Niger's former colonizer France, Catherine Colonna, condemned "all attempts to take power by force."

Germany's Foreign Ministry also called for Bazoum to be released. "Violence is not a means to enforce political or personal interests," the ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

Germany has troops in Niger. A report from Germany news agency DPA said the closure of Nigerien airspace has prevented flights to the Bundeswehr air base in the capital, Niamey. 

Who is Mohamed Bazoum?

Bazoum was elected president in Niger's first democratic transition of power in 2021.

He previously served as interior minister and was a right-hand man to former President Mahamadou Issoufou, who voluntarily stepped down after two terms.

The country had seen four other military coups since it gained independence from France in 1960.

Bazoum was one of a dwindling number of pro-Western leaders in the Sahel region which has been rocked by ongoing Islamist insurgency.

"Bazoum has been the West's only hope in the Sahel region. France, the US and the EU have spent much of their resources in the region to bolster Niger and its security forces," said Ulf Laessing, head of the Sahel program for Germany's Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung think-tank.

Niger is one of the poorest and most unstable countries in the world and frequently ranks near the bottom of the UN's Human Development Index.

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