hard pass

In Niger, army confirms it has overthrown Mohamed Bazoum

By Justine Spiegel, Mathieu Olivier

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Posted on July 27, 2023 06:45

Screenshot of the Nigerien officers announcing that Mohamed Bazoum had been deposed, 27 July, on ORTN. © ORTN – Télé Sahel.
Screenshot of the Nigerien officers announcing that Mohamed Bazoum had been deposed, 27 July, on ORTN. © ORTN – Télé Sahel.

On the night of 26 to 27 July, Nigerien military personnel announced that they had seized power. But the coup d’état is “not complete”, says a source.

On 26 July, at around 11.30pm, the Nigerien army announced the creation of a Conseil National de Sauvegarde de la Patrie (CNSP) (national council for the salvation of the homeland), as well as the suspension of the constitution and the establishment of a curfew. The borders are also closed until further notice.

Colonel Amadou Abdramane, dressed in blue military uniform, briefly addressed the nation on national television in a declaration filmed at the Garde Presidentielle, near the president’s residence.

During the day, the putschists had requisitioned a team of technicians to film the address, which they were later able to broadcast when a section of the army guarding the national television studios chose to join them. A source loyal to Mohamed Bazoum confirms that the putschists have control of the national media.

In the broadcast, Col. Abdramane said: “We have decided to end the regime as you know it. This follows the continuous deterioration of the security situation, and poor economic and social governance. We reaffirm our wish to respect all the commitments undertaken by Niger. We reassure the national and international community that we will respect of the physical and moral integrity of the deposed authorities in accordance with the principles of human rights.”

Bazoum’s fate uncertain

Behind him, among the ranks, was General Abdourahmane Tchiani and his number two, Col. Ibroh Amadou Bacharou, the leaders of the presidential guard who turned against Bazoum. Also present was Gen. Moussa Salaou Barmou, the head of the special forces, and the second in command of the national guard, Ahmed Sidian, who was the aide-de-camp of the former prime minister Brigi Rafini. The details of the power grab are still not yet known.

For now, uncertainty also surrounds the fate of Mohamed Bazoum, who has been detained at his residence since the morning of 26 July by elements of the presidential guard. According to our information, his wife and his son Salem are with him, while his daughters are currently in Paris.

Massaoudou head of a resistance government

In the early hours of Thursday, 27 July, Mohammed Bazoum responded on the platform X (formerly Twitter): ‘Our hard-won achievements will be safeguarded. All Nigeriens who love democracy and freedom will ensure it,’ he wrote on his personal account. This message was also shared on the Nigerien presidency’s account.

In a series of messages on social networks, in which he presents himself as the ‘interim head of government’, the minister of foreign affairs, Hassoumi Massoudou, called on ‘all democrats, on all patriots, to thwart this perilous adventure for our country’.

“We do not consider this a fait accompli,” he also told France 24.

The former Nigerien president Mahamadou Issoufou is free to move under the protection of the presidential guard. He saw Gen. Tchiani several times on Wednesday to negotiate, without success.

The army divided

On Thursday morning, a source in the presidency asserted that the coup d’etat was not completed. “President Bazoum remains in office,” they told The Africa Report. Bazoum and his foreign minister, Massaoudou – now the head of a government resisting the coup – still hope to obtain the support of at least part of the Nigerien army, which would dissociate itself from the NCSH.

This takeover announced by the army caught Bazoum’s entourage by surprise. The head of the Nigerien army, Abdou Sidikou Issa, has said nothing since the beginning of the coup attempt, and neither has his predecessor, Salifou Modi, which gives Bazoum’s supporters hope that the army may yet come through in their support. “It’s 50-50,” says one of Bazoum’s advisers about the level of support between the putschists and loyalists.

Bazoum and Massaoudou – who was defence minister under Issoufou – also pin their hopes on mediation by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the intervention of the Beninese president, Patrice Talon, who was due to arrive in Niamey on Thursday.

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