Attempted coup in Niger sends shock waves across ECOWAS

On Wednesday morning, President Mohamed Bazoum of Niger was taken prisoner by the Presidential Guards chief, Tchiani, and his men, blocking the Presidential Palace and residence in an attempted coup.

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Later in the afternoon, sympathisers of the President amassed outside the President’s Residence in a show of support that dissipated when shots were fired in the air.

Tchiani’s demands are for Bazoum to sign a paper amounting to his resignation which he had resisted late on Wednesday night. Earlier in the day, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hassoumi Massoudou, was reportedly negotiating with the Presidential Guards.

“Negotiations have been taking place since the morning with more expected to come” Al Jazeera reported.

The President has been communicating on twitter. A tweet released in the early afternoon of Wednesday stated that President Bazoum and his family were well and that negotiations were underway.

ECOWAS, the community of West African countries, currently chaired by Nigeria’s newly elected President of Nigeria, Bola Tinubu, issued a statement strongly condemning the coup d’état attempt. The President of Benin, Patrice Talon, is travelling to Niamey to attempt to resolve the crisis.

Just before midnight on Wednesday, the coup instigators made a statement on national television, led by Colonel Amadou Abdramane, claiming control of a deteriorating security and economic situation in Niger.

US Secretary of state Antony Blinken told a press conference that he had spoken to President Bazoum adding that the US supported Bazoum, as a democratically elected President. Niger and this administration had been the last bastion in a fragile region and represented a key ally in the Sahel region.

The domestic context involves a regional one and is complex. Niger has been holding the fort for the region that has experienced not only a wave of anti-French sentiment, leading occasional looting of French gas stations and supermarkets in Senegal, and to the removal of the French ambassador, followed by French troops and last month, of UN peacekeeping troops, in both Mali and Burkina Faso.

The rise in jihadist separatist movements and violence in the Sahel region in Nigeria, Boko Haram terrorizes the border the 2000km border shared with Niger. In neighbouring Burkina Faso and Mali, where a military junta reigns over the failed state, jihadists have set up shop, where Niger’s northern pastoral youth, where poverty and desertification reign, are recruited by extremists.

Add to that, the Wagner Group, the Russian paramilitary group, that Mali has hired in the foreign army’s place, have been expanding their operations in the region, with President Bazoum openly criticizing the Russian group’s presence and actions in the Sahel.

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