April 23, 2024 3:17 pm
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Top Niger Military Chief Rallying Behind Coup Leaders, Yet President Remains Defiant

Niger’s armed forces chief on Thursday declared his support for troops who announced they had seized power, despite a defiant stand by the country’s president, Mohamed Bazoum.

The Chief of Niger’s Armed Forces Shows Support for Coup Leaders

In a surprising turn of events, the Chief of Niger’s armed forces, General Abdou Sidikou Issa, has declared his support for the troops who have seized power in the country. This comes in response to President Mohamed Bazoum’s steadfast refusal to back down.

In the latest turbulence to shake the coup-prone Sahel, Bazoum was confined on Wednesday by members of his presidential guard.

Hours later, their leaders, calling themselves the Defence and Security Forces (FDS), declared they had “decided to put an end to the regime,” announcing that all institutions were being suspended, the borders closed and a night-time curfew imposed.

President’s Confinement Triggers a Bold Move by the FDS

In a tumultuous turn of events in the coup-prone Sahel region, President Mohamed Bazoum of Niger was confined by members of his own presidential guard on Wednesday. The situation escalated when the leaders of the guard, referring to themselves as the Defence and Security Forces (FDS), declared their intention to overthrow the current regime. They announced the suspension of all institutions, the closure of borders, and the implementation of a night-time curfew to maintain control.

As African and international organisations condemned the declared takeover and allies France and the United States voiced their support for Niger’s elected leader, Bazoum stood his ground.

Bazoum Refuses to Back Down despite International Condemnation

As news of the coup spread, various African and international organizations expressed their condemnation. France and the United States, both allies of Niger, openly voiced their support for President Bazoum. However, Bazoum remained defiant, standing firm in his commitment to protect the hard-won gains of democracy and freedom for all Nigeriens.

Foreign Minister Hassoumi Massoudou said Niger’s “legal and legitimate power” was the one exercised by its elected president.
There had been a “coup bid” but “the whole of the army was not involved,” he told France24 television.

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

Foreign Minister Urges Soldiers to Return and Promotes Dialogue

Niger’s Foreign Minister, Hassoumi Massoudou, emphasized that the true legal and legitimate power in the country resides in the elected president, Mohamed Bazoum. While acknowledging the attempted coup, he stressed that not the entire army was involved in this action. Massoudou appealed to the dissenting soldiers to return to their posts and encouraged the importance of dialogue in resolving conflicts, while also underscoring the need for the institutions of the republic to continue functioning.

But armed forces chief General Abdou Sidikou Issa dealt a hefty blow to those hopes.

“The military command… has decided to subscribe to the declaration made by the Defence and Security Forces… in order to avoid a deadly confrontation between the various forces,” he said in a statement.

Chief of Armed Forces Affirms Support for Coup Leaders

In a significant blow to President Bazoum’s hopes of retaining power, the Chief of Niger’s armed forces, General Abdou Sidikou Issa, has expressed his support for the coup leaders. Issa explained that this decision was made to prevent a potential deadly confrontation between different factions of the military.

Several hundred people, some of them holding Russian flags, took part in a show of support in Niamey for the coup leaders, AFP journalists saw.

Public Support for the Coup Leaders Grows

A demonstration of support for the coup leaders took place in Niamey, with several hundred individuals, some waving Russian flags, attending the rally. The presence of these supporters is a clear indication that the coup leaders have garnered public support, adding to the complexity of the situation.

The president of neighbouring Benin, Patrice Talon, was expected in the capital for mediation efforts, the head of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) said.

Mediation Efforts Underway

Benin’s President, Patrice Talon, is slated to visit the capital of Niger to engage in mediation efforts. The head of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) made this announcement, highlighting the regional commitment to resolving the crisis peacefully.

The landlocked state is one of the poorest and most unstable countries in the world, experiencing four coups since gaining independence from France in 1960, as well as numerous other attempts — including two previously against Bazoum.

The 63-year-old is one of a dwindling group of elected presidents and pro-Western leaders in the Sahel, where since 2020 a rampaging jihadist insurgency has triggered coups in Mali and Burkina Faso.

Niger’s History of Instability and Poverty

As one of the poorest and most unstable countries globally, Niger has faced numerous challenges since gaining independence from France in 1960. The nation has experienced four successful coups, in addition to several unsuccessful attempts, including two aimed at President Bazoum. The region where Niger is located, the Sahel, has been plagued by a rampant jihadist insurgency since 2020, resulting in coups in neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso. President Bazoum represents a dwindling group of elected leaders and pro-Western advocates in the Sahel region.

Bazoum took office after elections two years ago, in Niger’s first-ever peaceful transition since independence.

He was a former interior minister and right-hand man to former president Mahamadou Issoufou, who voluntarily stepped down after two terms.

Bazoum’s Political Journey to the Presidency

President Mohamed Bazoum assumed office following elections two years ago, marking Niger’s first peaceful transition of power since gaining independence. Prior to his presidency, Bazoum served as the country’s interior minister and was a trusted ally of former president Mahamadou Issoufou, who chose to step down after serving two terms.

The nation of 22 million is two-thirds desert and frequently ranks at the bottom of the UN’s Human Development Index, a benchmark of prosperity.

Niger is also struggling with two jihadist campaigns — one in the southwest, which swept in from Mali in 2015, and the other in the southeast, involving jihadists from northeastern Nigeria.

Challenges Facing Niger

Niger, with a population of 22 million, is comprised of two-thirds desert territory. The country consistently ranks low on the United Nations’ Human Development Index, indicating challenges in achieving prosperity. Additionally, Niger is grappling with two separate jihadist campaigns. The southwestern region has been affected by jihadists from Mali since 2015, while the southeastern region faces the presence of jihadists from northeastern Nigeria. These ongoing issues exacerbate the existing hardships in the country.

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