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Niger: Soldiers Seize Airwaves, Claim to Stage Coup on National TV


A group of soldiers describing themselves as the “National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland” appeared on national television in Niger late Thursday night announcing they had overthrown President Mohamed Bazoum and “suspended” the operations of all government institutions.

The status of the alleged coup remains unclear at press time – reports from Niger’s main cities on Thursday suggested many civilians going to work or otherwise behaving normally, with no indication of whether Bazoum’s government or the military was in charge. Bazoum has not appeared publicly since Thursday, but posted a message on Twitter in the early morning hours of Thursday vowing to protect “democracy and freedom.”

This is the third coup attempt against Bazoum since he took office following elections in 2021. Bazoum is the nation’s first leader to rise to power in a peaceful election.

Niger is a volatile Sahel country facing multiple jihadist insurgencies, including attacks by the Islamic State, its subsidiary Boko Haram, and some al-Qaeda elements. Bazoum’s government has been generally friendly to America – Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited the country in March and spoke to Bazoum on Wednesday prior to the alleged coup – and hosts American military assets.

It is currently surrounded by, in addition to jihadists, nations that have turned on the West and sought aid from Russia and the Wagner Private Military Group (PMC), most prominently Burkina Faso, which experienced its own televised coup last year.

An infographic giving background to President Mohamed Bazoum being overthrown by military coup in Niger. (Mahmut Resul Karaca/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Amadou Adramane, the spokesman of the “National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland,” read a statement on Nigerien television on Thursday announcing the military had shut down the nation’s borders and “suspended” the operations of the government’s institutions. Adramane insisted, however, that the coup would not result in any major changes in foreign policy, urging the international community not to intervene.

“This day, July 26, 2023, we the defense and security forces meeting within the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland have decided to put an end to the regime you know,” Adramane declared. “This follows the continuing deterioration of the security situation and poor economic and social governance.”

“Reaffirming our commitment to respecting all the commitments entered into by Niger, we reassure the national and international community that the physical and moral integrity of the authorities will be respected, in accordance with the principle of human rights,” he continued.

“All the institutions of the seventh Republic are suspended. The secretaries-general of the ministries will take care of day-to-day business. The defense and security forces are managing the situation,” Adramane, flanked by armed soldiers, assured the public. “All external partners are asked not to interfere. Land and air borders are closed until the situation has stabilized.”

Reports out of Niger suggested that Adramane had not organized the coup, but General Abdourhmane Tchiani, the head of the presidential guard. These reports remain unconfirmed at press time.

Reports following the broadcast indicated that soldiers led by Tchiani had surrounded Bazoum’s home and were holding him hostage. The president has not made any public appearances since the broadcast at press time, but issued a message on social media.

“The hard-won achievements will be safeguarded. All Nigeriens who love democracy and freedom will see to it,” the brief statement read.

The official Twitter account of the presidency of Niger posted a statement confirming Bazoum and his family were “doing well” and claiming the military was preparing to handle the mutineers, without elaboration.

The Nigerien army issued a statement through its chief of staff, however, announcing shortly after the coup declaration that it had taken the side of the defecting soldiers, not Bazoum’s, to prevent “a deadly confrontation … that could create a bloodbath and affect the security of the population.” The chief of staff also claimed that soldiers were ensuring the “physical integrity” of the president.

Bazoum’s Foreign Minister Hassoumi Massaoudou called for “all democrats and patriots” around the world to oppose the coup in a statement on Thursday, demanding soldiers also desist from overthrowing the government.

“We ask all the fractious soldiers to return to their ranks,” he said, according to the U.K. Guardian. “Everything can be achieved through dialogue but the institutions of the republic must function.”

Massoudou also reportedly claimed that Bazoum had not lost the support of the entirety of the armed forces and described the situation as a “coup bid,” not a successful seizure of power.

West Africa rapidly responded with a stern condemnation of the coup attempt. The President of neighboring Benin, Patrice Talon, is reportedly traveling to Niger at press time to mediate the situation. Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, the head of the regional Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), issued a statement condemning the “unpleasant developments” and declaring the ECOWAS countries would “not tolerate” the coup.

A general view of billowing smoke as supporters of the Nigerien defence and security forces attack the headquarters of the Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS), the party of overthrown President Mohamed Bazoum, in Niamey on July 27, 2023. (AFP via Getty Images)

“As the Chairperson of ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, I state without equivocation that Nigeria stands firmly with the elected government in Niger and equally conveys the absolute resolve of leaders in our sub-region that we shall not waver or flinch on our stand to defend and preserve constitutional order,” Tinubu said.

Antony Blinken, currently in New Zealand, issued a statement supporting Bazoum on behalf of Washington.

“I spoke with President Bazoum earlier this morning and made clear that the United States resolutely supports him as the democratically elected president of Niger,” Blinken said late Wednesday. “We call for his immediate release.”

The readout of Blinken’s conversation with Bazoum, published on the State Department’s website on Wednesday, stated that the top diplomat “emphasized that the United States stands with the Nigerien people and regional and international partners in condemning this effort to seize power by force and overturn the constitutional order.”

The Associated Press reported on Thursday that, in Niamey, the capital, there were few signs that a coup was underway. Several small groups of “several hundred people” had peacefully gathered to alternatively support Bazoum and the coup, with some expressing support for the Wagner PMC, but the situation had not devolved into violence. Bazoum’s office shared photos of the rallies in his favor on social media.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.


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