A coup has been declared on national television by soldiers in Niger, a West African country. They have announced the dissolution of the constitution, the suspension of all institutions, and the closure of national borders.
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Niger’s President, Mohamed Bazoum, has been held by troops from the presidential guard since early Wednesday. In response to the situation, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken assured President Bazoum of Washington’s unwavering support during a phone call. Similarly, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed full support to the president after speaking with him.
President Bazoum has been a crucial ally to Western nations in combating militancy in West Africa. The region has witnessed coups in neighboring countries, Mali and Burkina Faso, due to uprisings in recent years. In both instances, the new military leaders had strained relations with France, the former colonial power that also once ruled Niger.
As of now, the whereabouts of President Bazoum remain unclear. However, he released a statement on Twitter assuring that the hard-won gains will be protected, and Nigeriens who cherish democracy will ensure its preservation.
Meanwhile, the Foreign Minister, Hassoumi Massoudou, has proclaimed himself as the head of state and called upon all supporters of democracy to prevent the success of this coup attempt.
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On Wednesday’s TV announcement, Colonel Major Amadou Abdramane, flanked by nine other uniformed soldiers, declared the reasons behind the coup in Niger. He stated that the defense and security forces had decided to bring an end to the existing regime due to the ongoing deterioration of the security situation and the poor economic and social governance in the country.
As a consequence of the coup, all of the country’s institutions were suspended, and the heads of ministries would take charge of day-to-day affairs. The announcement emphasized that external partners should refrain from interference, and the nation’s land and air borders were closed until stability could be restored.
Additionally, a night curfew was implemented from 22:00 to 05:00 local time until further notice. The soldiers identified themselves as acting on behalf of the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP).
Following the soldiers’ announcement on TV, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called for the release of President Mohamed Bazoum. During a news conference in New Zealand, Blinken labeled the events as an attempt to seize power forcefully and undermine the country’s constitution.
In neighboring Mali, the military regime is receiving support from heavily armed Russian Wagner mercenaries in their fight against insurgents. The recent unrest in Niger adds to existing concerns in the West about the activities of Wagner in the region and the overall instability in the Sahel.
President Vladimir Putin, with a keen interest in expanding Russian influence in Africa, is hosting African leaders in St. Petersburg on Thursday.
The West African economic bloc, Ecowas, has strongly condemned the attempt to seize power by force in Niger. Representing Ecowas, President Patrice Talon of Benin has arrived in the capital city, Niamey, on a mediation mission. He emphasized that all possible means would be used, if necessary, to restore constitutional order in Niger, but he expressed the hope that a peaceful and harmonious resolution could be achieved.
Earlier on Wednesday, crowds in Niamey showed their support for President Mohamed Bazoum. A BBC reporter witnessed heavily armed forces loyal to the president stationed around the national broadcaster. Despite the mostly peaceful atmosphere in the city, the soldiers behind the coup used gunfire to disperse the protests.
Niger is currently facing the challenge of two insurgencies. One of these insurgencies originated from Mali in 2015 and has affected the south-western region. The other insurgency involves militants based in north-eastern Nigeria and has impacted the south-eastern part of the country.
President Mohamed Bazoum, who was democratically elected in 2021, maintains close ties with France and other Western nations.
Niger’s history has been marred by political instability, marked by four coups since gaining independence from France in 1960, as well as several attempted coups. These instances of political upheaval have contributed to the country’s struggle for stability and effective governance.