Mutinous soldiers claimed to have overthrown Niger’s democratically elected president, announcing on state television late Wednesday that they have put an end to the government over the African country’s deteriorating security.
The soldiers said all institutions had been suspended and security forces were managing the situation. They urged external partners not to interfere.
The announcement came after a day of uncertainty as members of Niger’s presidential guard surrounded the presidential palace and detained President Mohamed Bazoum. It was unclear where the president was at the time of the announcement or if he had resigned.
“This is as a result of the continuing degradation of the security situation, the bad economic and social governance,” air force Col. Major Amadou Abdramane said on the video. Seated at a table in front of nine other officers, he said aerial and land borders were closed and a curfew was imposed until the situation stabilized.
The group, which is calling itself National Council for the Safeguarding of the Country, said it remained committed to its engagements with the international and national community.
Earlier Wednesday, a tweet from the account of Niger’s presidency reported that members of the elite guard unit engaged in an “anti-Republican demonstration” and unsuccessfully tried to obtain support from other security forces. It said Bazoum and his family were doing well but that Niger’s army and national guard “are ready to attack” if those involved in the action did not back down.
The commissions of the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States described the events as an effort to unseat Bazoum, who was elected president two years ago in the nation’s first peaceful, democratic transfer of power since its independence from France in 1960.
Threats to Bazoum’s leadership would undermine the West’s efforts to stabilize Africa’s Sahel region, which has been overrun with coups in recent years. Mali and Burkina Faso have had four coups since 2020, and both are being overrun by extremists linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group. U.S.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Niger in March, seeking to strengthen ties with a country where extremists have carried out attacks on civilians and military personnel but the overall security situation was not as dire as in neighboring nations.
“This is the nightmare scenario for Western powers who had betted on Bazoum and Niger as new security anchor for the Sahel,” said Ulf Laessing, head of the Sahel program at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation.
“It remains to be seen whether this is the last word. Parts of the army are probably still loyal to Bazoum. They benefited much from equipment and training as part of foreign military assistance,” he said.