Nigerien soldiers claim 'coup' successful, President Bazoum overthrown
The soldiers have declared the suspension of all institutions, closed borders, and imposed a curfew.
Niger's government appears to have been overthrown in a coup led by members of the Presidential Guard. Soldiers claim to have overthrown Niger's government following an apparent mutiny in the West African nation on Wednesday when members of the Presidential Guard detained President Mohamed Bazoum.
President Mohamed Bazoum was detained at his residence and talks to release him failed, a presidential source said.
The soldiers have 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 President Bazoum's rule.
This comes just a few hours after Bazoum said he and his family are in a safe condition after the mutiny had ended, as per the Presidential office.
"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 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 President Bazoum's immediate release.
President Bazoum, who took office in 2021, inheriting a country stricken with poverty and insurgencies, has received regional and global leaders' calls for his release.
President Talon will arrive in Niamey for mediation efforts, seeking to find an agreement between the Presidential Guard and President Bazoum. France's foreign minister also expressed condemnation for attempts to seize power forcefully.
On his account, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed strong condemnation for the "unconstitutional change" in government that took place in Niger, following an apparent coup in the West African nation. Guterres' spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, stated that the Secretary-General is deeply disturbed by the detention of President Mohamed Bazoum by members of the Presidential Guard. The Secretary-General is calling for an immediate halt to all actions that undermine democratic principles in Niger.
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. President 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.
According to the Anadolu Agency, quoting a legislative radio station that broadcast the discussions, a measure to alter the song from the French-composed "La Nigerienne" to "The Honor of the Fatherland" garnered overwhelming approval from parliamentarians.
Former Nigerien President Mahamadou Issoufou announced the decision to change the country's anthem in response to criticism that portions of the lyrics appeared to convey appreciation to the country's previous colonizer, such as the verse that states: “Let us be proud and grateful for our newfound freedom.”