Niger coup condemned in West as army backs coup plotters

Niger President Mohamed Bazoum remains confined to the presidential palace on Thursday afternoon, and the situation regarding the country’s leadership remains uncertain after soldiers from the presidential guard declared a military coup on Wednesday evening, triggering widespread condemnation.

France, the former colonial power of Niger, along with the West African regional bloc ECOWAS, has jointly urged for the immediate release of President Mohamed Bazoum and a restoration of constitutional order in the country.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also echoed the call for the reinstatement of constitutional governance in Niger.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris stated that cooperation with Niger’s government hinges on its ongoing dedication to upholding democratic standards.

According to the Russian news agency RIA, African Union Commission Chair Moussa Faki Mahamat conveyed that he had spoken with Bazoum on Thursday, assuring that the president was in good condition.

Niger’s recent coup marks the seventh in West and Central Africa since 2020, raising concerns about its potential serious repercussions on democratic advancements and the ongoing battle against jihadist insurgency in the region.

A new leader has not yet been publicly announced.

The coup was initiated by the presidential guard, a unit comprising armed forces personnel responsible for safeguarding the president and his associates. The commander of this unit is General Omar Tchiani.

However, General Omar Tchiani was not among the soldiers who appeared on television late on Wednesday to announce Bazoum’s replacement.

Coup supporters wave Russian flags

Following the army command’s endorsement of the coup initiated by the soldiers of the presidential guard, supporters of the coup ransacked and set fire to the ruling party’s headquarters in Niamey, the capital, on Thursday.

Before converging at the National Assembly, the same crowd had assembled earlier, with some brandishing Russian flags and chanting anti-French slogans reflecting a mounting sentiment of discontent towards France, the former colonial power, and its involvement in the Sahel region.

The army, through a statement signed by its chief of staff, expressed its support for the soldiers who declared in a televised address late at night that they had removed President Bazoum from power.

The army stated that its primary objective was to prevent any destabilization of the country and ensure the safety and security of the president and his family.

Colonel Amadou Abdramane, the one who declared the coup on state television, asserted that the defense and security forces took action in response to the deteriorating security situation and concerns about governance issues.

Since Bazoum’s election in 2021, insecurity has persisted as militant groups, which originated in Mali in 2012, have expanded their influence. This has resulted in thousands of casualties and over 6 million people being displaced across the Sahel region.

Political activities suspended

In response to the situation in the country, which is already grappling with escalating violence, socio-economic difficulties, and climate change, the United Nations announced that it would suspend its humanitarian operations in Niger.

On Thursday, Abdramane declared the suspension of all political party activities until further notice.

Bazoum took to social media on Thursday to pledge his commitment to safeguarding the “hard-won” democratic achievements.

Since that post, he has not made any further posts or comments on social media. Numerous world leaders, including the EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, have reported having spoken to him.

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