Niger's detained President says 'hard-won gains will be safeguarded'
The Nigerien Foreign Minister stresses that the legal and legitimate power is the one exercised by elected President Mohamed Bazoum.
Niger President Mohamed Bazoum, detained by soldiers following a mutiny, pledged on Thursday to protect "hard-won" gains in the West African nation.
"The hard-won gains will be safeguarded," Bazoum said on Twitter. "All Nigeriens who love democracy and freedom would want this."
Les acquis obtenus de haute lutte seront sauvegardés.— Mohamed Bazoum (@mohamedbazoum) July 27, 2023
Tous les nigériens épris de démocratie et de liberté y veilleront.#MB
On his part, Nigerien Foreign Minister Hassoumi Massoudou stressed that the elected government was the "legitimate and legal authority."
"The legal and legitimate power is the one exercised by the elected president of Niger Mohamed Bazoum," Massoudou told France24, confirming that the detained leader was "in good health."
Earlier, a presidential source confirmed that Bazoum was detained by members of the Presidential Guard, pointing out that talks to release him failed.
The soldiers claim to have overthrown Niger's government following an apparent mutiny in the West African nation on Wednesday.
They declared the suspension of all institutions, closed borders, and imposed a curfew. They cited reasons such as the deteriorating security situation and poor economic and social governance as justification for ending Bazoum's rule.
"On Wednesday morning, elements of the presidential guard began a mutiny, trying in vain to gather the support of the national armed forces and the national guard," the Presidential office said on Twitter.
The President's office refuted the "coup", attributing it to a "fit of temper" by elements of the Presidential Guard. Supporters who tried to approach the official complex were dispersed with warning shots, resulting in one person being injured.
Niger's ruling coalition parties denounced the mutiny, and international bodies like ECOWAS, the African Union, the European Union, the US Secretary of State, and the UN Secretary-General have all condemned the attempted "coup" and called for Bazoum's immediate release.
Bazoum, who took office in 2021, inheriting a country stricken with poverty and insurgencies, has received regional and global leaders' calls for his release.
The big picture
Niger, a landlocked Sahel state, has a history of political instability, with four coups and several other attempted coups since gaining independence in 1960. Bazoum, a former interior minister, was the close associate of former President Mahamadou Issoufou, who voluntarily stepped down after serving two terms in office.
Before Bazoum's inauguration, there was an attempted coup, resulting in several arrests, including the suspected ringleader, who was later sentenced to 20 years in prison in February. Another bid to oust Bazoum occurred in March, but the authorities never publicly commented on the incident.
Niger faces significant challenges, including widespread poverty and insurgencies. Two-thirds of the country is desert, and it often ranks low on the UN's Human Development Index, indicating a lack of prosperity. The nation is grappling with insurgents from neighboring Mali and northeastern Nigeria, resulting in large-scale displacement of people, exacerbating the humanitarian crisis, and putting strain on the economy.
France, the colonizer
In the late 1890s, France began colonizing Niger. The Sahel nation won independence in 1960 as part of a broader decolonization movement triggered by political upheavals and Paris' surrender of African territories.
France retained its colonies in Africa roughly until the 1960s, exercising its dominance over North, Western, and Equatorial Africa. Shortly after the formation of the Fifth French Republic in 1958, countries such as Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Congo, Chad, and the Central African Republic gained independence.
Despite this fact, Paris failed to completely abandon the region, continuing to intervene in its internal affairs, including by military means.
Since the start of his political career, Bazoum has maintained a moderate stance with regard to former colonial powers.
But on June 23, Niger's parliament approved a new national anthem, marking the first steps to free the country of any relics of French colonization.