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Niger. What is happening in this country, what is the significance of a military coup d’état and the overthrow of a democratic president

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A coup d’état and the overthrow of the democratic president of Niger could have serious consequences for the order in that country. In addition, however, Niger is an important country for several strategic reasons for the democratic West. We explain how the coup took place and what consequences this military mutiny may have in the future, including for Europe.

Niger’s president, Mohamed Bazoum, has been removed from power – said a group of officers in a speech broadcast on state television on Wednesday night. Bazoum was the first democratically elected head of state since becoming over Niger independence from France in 1960.

READ ALSO: Coup in Niger a ‘geopolitical mystery’

Military coup in NigerISSIFOU DJIBO/PAP/EPA

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Who started the coup

The coup d’état was launched on Wednesday by the same people who were supposed to protect and maintain Bazoum’s office – the presidential guard who kept watch outside his palace. Initially, the situation seemed to be under control, and the army sided with the president. However, on the night of Wednesday to Thursday, a group of 10 officers – presenting themselves as members of the “National Council to Save the Fatherland” – appeared on state television, where their representative read out a statement that Mohamed Bazoum had been removed from power, the country’s borders were closed and a curfew was announced.

A group of officers announced that President Mohamed Bazoum had been removed from powerReuters

Niger’s military command supported the coup d’état and the overthrow of the president, saying that the most important thing was to avoid bloodshed and destabilize the country.

He became the leader of the junta General Abdourahamane Tchiani announced on Friday.


What’s going on with Bazoum

The deposed president has been held in the presidential palace in the country’s capital, Niamey, since Wednesday. He has the ability to contact the outside world via telephone and the Internet.

Why there was a coup

The rebels cited the “deteriorating security situation and bad governance” as the reason for the overthrow of the president. In Mali and Burkina Faso, which border Niger, aggressive Islamist groups have the upper hand, controlling most of their territories and carrying out their attacks. For this reason, unrest is growing in Niger.

They also contribute to instability in the region climate changeswhich are causing the desertification of this area.

Why the situation in Niger is important to other countries

Niger is a country located in West Africa, inhabited by about 15 million people. According to UN data, it is one of the poorest countries in the world.

At the same time, it is a key part of the African region called the Sahel – an area along the southern edge of the Sahara, stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea. The area is plagued by jihadists and military regimes and is plagued by droughts. There are difficult living conditions there, including a shortage of drinking water.

As the largest country in West Africa, Niger is a leading country in many respects. Politically it has been seen as a bastion of relative democratic stability in the region in recent years.

Is also strategically important countrybecause there are French and American military bases there. The country has been a key partner for the West in fighting Islamist rebels affiliated with the so-called Islamic State or Al-Qaeda and stopping the spread of Russian influence in the region.

The capital of Niger, Niamey. A supporter of the coup holds a cardboard box with a slogan calling for the liquidation of foreign military bases PAP/EPA/STR

US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said that a coup can strengthen extremist organizationsundermine the stability of the country, worsen the situation and violence in the region – the rule of the ousted president has so far protected his country from the effects of the Islamic insurgency, which left thousands of people dead and more than six million homeless across the Sahel region.

In addition, Kirby warned that a coup d’état could cause the United States to terminate its security cooperation with the government of Niger. At the same time, a representative of the White House stated that for the time being he knew nothing about plans to move about 1,100 American troops stationed in the country as part of the fight against Islamic extremists.

Sahel countriesPAP

Apart from the political and strategic aspect, Niger is also important for economic reasons. It is a uranium-rich country that produces 7 percent of the world’s reserves. Uranium plays a significant role in Niger’s economy.

In addition, Bazouma’s government has been cooperating with other countries on the issue stopping the flow of migrants across the Mediterranean, accepting hundreds of people from detention centers in Libya. It has also cracked down on human trafficking to West African countries and further north, with its main hub in the region.

Supporters of President Mohamed Bazoum protested outside the National Assembly in NiameyReuters

International reactions

Head of EU diplomacy Josep Borrell he stated that The European Union “does not and will not recognize the coup authorities” and immediately suspends “all security cooperation activities” with the Sahel country.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken he was talking to Bazoum before taking him down. Blinken reported that The United States gives strong support democratically elected president and demand his immediate release.

For tension the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland also reacted. “Poland supports the democratically elected president Mohamed Bazoum. We call for calm and talks to normalize the situation in Niger,” it was written on Twitter.

The military mutiny was also condemned by France, the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Russian mercenary Wagner Group, was the only one to express his support. His comment was posted on the Wagner Group channel on the Telegram messenger, but – as the BBC emphasizes – it has not been verified.

Supporters of the coup in front of the parliament building in Niger PAP/EPA/STR

What connection do the Wagner Group and Russia have with the rebellion?

Like the jihadists, the Wagnerians are also active in the Sahel and are also having a negative impact on security in the region.

As reported by Radio France Internationale, coup supporters in Niger unfurled Russian flags and shouted “Long live Russia!”. The radio station emphasizes that apart from pro-Russian slogans, anti-French slogans were also heard in Niamey.

Prior to the coup, President Bazoum complained about the Wagner Group’s “disinformation campaigns” against his government. This mercenary formation used mineral resources in other African countries to finance its operations and, according to the BBC, would like to do the same in Niger.

However, the US stated that it had no information confirming the involvement of Prigozhin’s militants in the events in Niger.

Nevertheless, there are fears that the junta may move away from its Western allies and closer to Russia. If it does, Niger will follow in the footsteps of Burkina Faso and Mali, which have turned to Moscow since their own military coups.

Main photo source: PAP/EPA/STR

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