Around midnight on Wednesday 9 August, Niger’s General Abdourahame Tiani took to the airwaves again to announce on national television that a government had been formed.
Under Prime Minister Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine, who was appointed two days earlier, there is now a 21-member cabinet. The ministers of defence and of the interior are plucked from among the officers of the Conseil National pour la Sauvegarde de la Patrie junta – respectively Gen. Salifou Mody, the former army chief of staff whom President Mohamed Bazoum replaced on 1 April, and Gen. Mohamed Toumba.
With Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) heads of state meeting today in Abuja to discuss the situation in Niger, the government appointments send a message of defiance to the regional bloc that Tiani’s regime does not intend to relinquish power.
‘Important decisions’ are expected from the Abuja summit, according to ECOWAS, which has reiterated that it is seeking a diplomatic solution while maintaining the threat of force to restore President Bazoum as a last resort.
The new leaders in Niamey consider that the regional bloc is “in the pay” of France, which is their main target. On 9 August they accused the former colonial power of having violated a no-fly zone established on Sunday over Niger with a French army jet from Chad, and having “freed terrorists”, both of which France has denied.
Bazoum’s ministers arrested
Meanwhile, President Bazoum remains under house arrest, and several members of his government are in detention.
On 31 July the putschists arrested the prominent ministers Foumakoye Gado and Sani Mahamadou Issoufou, who both belong to the president’s Parti Nigerien pour la Démocratie et la Socialisme (PNDS).
Sani, the oil minister, is the son of former president Mahamadou Issoufou, who has been playing a diplomatic role, trying to negotiate with Tiani, with whom is has been close in the past. On 30 July, he also met Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno, president of the transition in Chad and ECOWAS envoy for the crisis in Niger.
Gado, a senior representative of Bazoum’s and president of the PNDS, was arrested at his home in Niamey. For several days, he had been secretly taking part in negotiations aimed at securing Bazoum’s release and return to power.
According to sources, Gado was in contact with Bazoum but also with the foreign affairs minister Hassoumi Massaoudou, who has taken over the leadership of a civilian resistance government in Niamey, in collaboration with Kalla Ankourao, vice-president of the National Assembly and secretary general of the PNDS executive committee.
Massaoudou, a co-founder of the ruling party with Issoufou, Bazoum, and Gado, has taken refuge in a secret location in the Nigerien capital to avoid being arrested. He had tried to coordinate the efforts of the ministers on mission abroad at the time of the putsch, including Ibrahim Yacouba, Alkassoum Indatou, Laouan Magagi, and Bazoum’s prime minister, Ouhoumoudou Mahamadou.
Mahamadou is now in France, where he is taking part in the resistance organised by the Parti Socialiste Nigérien.
Several other ministers have also been arrested: Kassoum Moctar (vocational education), Ousseini Hadizatou Yacouba (mines), and Hamadou Adamou Souley (interior). Souley, who is very close to Bazoum, is thought to have some sway with the National Guard, which initially offered a possible source of resistance to Tiani’s regime within the armed forces. Tiani made sure to contain this by arresting its commander, Colonel Midou Guirey, and Aliou Matani, another high-ranking officer in the force of more than 3,000 men.
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