After mutinous soldiers arrest him and declare a coup the president of Niger says democracy will win. Thursday, Niger’s president proclaimed defiantly that democracy would prevail, a day after mutinous soldiers detained him and announced they had seized power due to the deteriorating security situation in the West African nation.
While many people in the capital city of Niamey went about their daily activities, it remained uncertain who controlled the country and which side the majority supported. The army command’s Twitter account tweeted that it would help the rebellion to prevent a “murderous confrontation” that could lead to a “bloodbath.” It was not possible to corroborate the authenticity of the statement.
President Mohamed Bazoum, elected in 2021 in Niger’s first peaceful, democratic transition of power since its independence from France and is a key Western ally, appeared to have the support of multiple political parties.
“The hard-won accomplishments will be protected. Bazoum tweeted early Thursday morning, “All Nigeriens who love democracy and freedom will ensure it.”
Foreign Minister Hassoumi Massoudou appealed to France 24’s news network, urging “all democratic Nigerien patriots to stand united in opposition to this subversive action.”
He demanded the unequivocal release of the president and stated that negotiations were ongoing.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who spoke by phone with Bazoum on Wednesday, issued a statement in which he expressed “extreme concern” about the situation in Niger and warned of the “terrible effects on development” and civilians caused by “repeated unconstitutional changes of government in the Sahel region.”
Economic Community of West African States dispatched Patrice Talon, president of Benin, to lead mediation efforts.
Bazoum is a crucial Western ally in the fight against al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in the Sahel region of Africa. There have been attacks on civilians and military personnel by extremists in Niger, but the overall security situation is not as dire as in neighboring countries.
The fight against extremism in the region has become a significant arena for competition between the West and Russia for influence.
After Mali rejected former colonial power France and sought support from the Russian mercenary group Wagner, Bazoum was viewed by many as the West’s last chance for partnership in the Sahel. Wagner also appears to be gaining ground in Burkina Faso.
Western nations have provided substantial aid to Niger, and in March, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited the country to strengthen connections. The United States, France, and Italy train the nation’s soldiers, and France also conducts joint operations.
However, the threat to Bazoum has prompted fears that Niger may also turn away from the West. On Thursday, several hundred individuals assembled in the nation’s capital, chanting for Wagner and waving Russian flags. Later, they began tossing rocks at the vehicle of a passing politician.
“If Mohamed Bazoum resigns as president, Niger will likely top the list of countries where the Wagner Group will seek to expand,” said Flavien Baumgartner, an Africa analyst at the security and political risk consulting firm Dragonfly.
Wagner had already set its sights on Niger, partly because it is a significant producer of uranium that Russia desires. Baumgartner stated that Bazoum’s pro-French and pro-Western stance presented an obstacle.
Wagner’s head, Yevgeny Prigozhin, commented on Thursday’s events, characterizing them as part of Niger’s fight against “colonizers.”
“It essentially entails attaining independence. Prigozhin, who led a brief mutiny against the Kremlin last month, said in a statement: “The rest will depend on the people of Niger and how effectively they can govern.” Blinken stated on Thursday that he had spoken with the president of Niger and “made it clear that we strongly support him as the democratically elected leader of the country.”
Blinken, who was in New Zealand then, reiterated the United States’ condemnation of the mutiny and stated that his team was in direct contact with French and African officials.
Presidential guard members encircled Bazoum’s home and detained him on Wednesday morning.
The mutinous soldiers, who call themselves the National Council for the Protection of the Country, announced on state television that they had usurped control due to deteriorating security and poor economic and social governance in the 25-million-person nation. They told the dissolution of the constitution, the suspension of all institutions, and the closure of all borders.
According to Niger analysts, Bazoum allegedly planned to dismiss the presidential guard chief, General Omar Tchiani, which sparked the coup. According to military experts, some individuals who appeared on state television were high-ranking officers, such as Gen. Moussa Salaou Barmou, the head of Niger’s special forces, who has a close rapport with the United States.
According to a source close to the president, who spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to discuss the situation, the president has not resigned and will not leave, and he is secure in his residence.
Several political parties expressed their support for him in a statement released on Wednesday, labeling the coup “suicidal and anti-republican madness.”
Faced with insecurity, terrorism, and underdevelopment challenges, the country cannot afford to be distracted, they said. On that day, protesters also turned out in support of Bazoum.
The international community vehemently condemned the attempted coup in Niger, which has endured multiple coups since its independence in 1960.
Catherine Colonna, the French foreign minister, tweeted that France is concerned about the recent events in Niger and is closely monitoring the situation. The minister stated that France “strongly condemns any attempt to seize power by force.”
Volker Türk, the head of U.N. Human Rights, demanded Bazoum’s release and stated that “all efforts must be made to restore constitutional order and the rule of law.”
Russia has also demanded the president’s release, and Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova stated that the country desires a “rapid resolution” of the current political crisis.