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Niger: Coupists Claim to Have Overthrown President Mohamed Bazoum

Last night, on July 26, 2023, a group of coupist military officials in Niger, calling themselves the “National Council for the Safeguard of the Country,” led by Colonel-Major Amadou Abdramane, announced on state television that they have overthrown President Mohamed Bazoum. The leader declared, “We, the Defense and Security Forces (FDS), united within the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP), have decided to put an end to the regime as you know it [and] all the institutions of the 7th Republic are suspended.”

The country’s borders have been closed, and a curfew has been imposed, while President Bazoum, democratically elected two years ago, is currently held in an undisclosed location. As explained by the coupist spokesperson, Bazoum’s removal was deemed necessary due to the “continual degradation of the security situation and mismanagement of the economy and society.” Simultaneously, Abdramane “assured” the “national and international community with respect to the physical and moral integrity of the ousted authorities in accordance with human rights principles.”

In the early hours of this morning, July 27, the official Twitter account of President Mohamed Bazoum posted a message of resistance: “Hard-won successes will be safeguarded. All Nigeriens who love democracy and freedom will take care of it.”

The condition of Bazoum remains unknown at the moment, except for the announcement by the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Niger that he has subscribed to the coupists’ declaration. However, yesterday “Focus on Africa” promptly reported that the coup was still uncertain, but tensions were soaring, and the condemnation of the attempted coup was widely shared internationally.

Today, the critical statements towards the military putsch are even more pronounced. For example, the head of American diplomacy, Antony Blinken, emphasized that American aid is closely tied to “upholding democracy and respect for the rule of law,” so the coup goes decisively against maintaining a “strong economic and security partnership [with the United States] with Niger.” Additionally, Blinken called for the “immediate release” of Mohamed Bazoum, stating that he had spoken to him by phone and assuring him that “the United States firmly stands by him as the democratically elected President of Niger.”

Similarly, France has strongly condemned “any attempt to seize power by force,” as stated by French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, adding that they join the “calls of the African Union and ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) to restore the integrity of Niger’s democratic institutions.”

The coup is also condemned by the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, who says he is “deeply troubled” by Mohamed Bazoum’s arrest and emphasizes that the change of government occurred through unconstitutional means.

According to information gathered by “Radio France International,” Benin’s President, Patrice Talon, is expected to travel to Niger today to act as a mediator: “The situation is quite worrying, so ECOWAS takes the matter seriously and intends to act quickly.”

Since gaining independence from this former French colony in 1960, Niger’s history has been marked by coups. There have been four, the first in April 1974 against President Diori Hamani, and the last in February 2010 that overthrew President Mamadou Tandja, but there have also been numerous attempted coups, such as in 2021 by Ousmane Cissé, former Nigerien Interior Minister of a military transition regime (2010-2011).

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