Niger’s Presidential Guard Leader Instigates Coup,
Political Turmoil in West Africa
Abdourahmane Tchiani, the head of Niger’s presidential guard, has taken control of the country through a coup that resulted in the removal of its pro-western leader.
Revolt Led by Tchiani
Tchiani, who has been in charge of the presidential guard since 2015, led the revolt by barricading President Mohamed Bazoum in his residence and demanding his resignation.
Reasons Behind the Coup
Appearing briefly on television, Tchiani cited reasons for taking over the country, including concerns over deteriorating security, economic hardships, and corruption.
Consequences for Democracy and International Interests
With Bazoum’s elected government deposed, Niger loses one of the last democracies in the “coup belt” across the semi-desert Sahel region, impacting the interests of western nations that heavily supported him.
Support from Russia’s Wagner Group
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of Russia’s Wagner Group, welcomed the coup in Niger and offered his mercenary group’s assistance to the new leaders. Prigozhin characterized the coup as a battle by the people of Niger against colonizers and expressed Wagner’s capabilities in restoring order and combating terrorists.
Security Threats Linked to ISIS and al-Qaeda
Bazoum’s removal spells the end of an essential western ally in the fight against the expanding threat posed by groups associated with ISIS and al-Qaeda. Neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso, both under military control, have faced challenges from jihadist insurgents.
Complex Political Dynamics
Observers in Niger’s capital, Niamey, suggest that Tchiani’s move was triggered by Bazoum’s attempt to remove him from office due to his approaching retirement age. Bazoum’s political base is weak, and he has struggled to assert his independence from his political mentor and predecessor, Mahamadou Issoufou.
International Condemnation and UN’s Call for Release
The coup has been widely condemned by regional and international governments. President Bazoum’s refusal to sign a resignation letter and being held inside his residence have been reported by Nigerian diplomats.
Western Dilemma and Possible Sanctions
The coup presents a dilemma for western leaders. Pushing too hard with sanctions could potentially drive the new leaders towards closer ties with Russia, similar to Mali’s experience following a previous coup.
France and EU’s Response
France, with troops in Niger, has suspended all budgetary aid and development funding immediately. The EU refuses to recognize the new authorities resulting from the coup and holds them accountable for Bazoum’s safety.
The situation remains highly fluid, and diplomatic efforts to reverse the events are deemed unlikely to succeed. The coup’s aftermath poses challenges for Niger and its international partners, requiring careful management of actions to avoid further complications.