Coup In Niger; France In Turmoil
More than ten days have passed since a military coup against the pro-Western government of Mohamed Bazoum President of Niger, and the political pressures and negotiations by African countries to neutralize the coup and restore political stability to the country have remained ineffective. Many analysts and media outlets consider Niger as a new scene of competition between Russia and France in West Africa; so, they believe that the French, like their previous competition in Burkina Faso and Mali, will be the losers of this story.
On July 26, the presidential guard of Niger arrested President Mohamed Bazoum along with his family at the Presidential Palace in capital Niamey under the command of General Omar Tchiani. At the same time, another group of Niger’s military personnel led by Colonel Amadou Abdul Rahman announced the coup through a live TV program, when they officially declared the removal of President Bazoum.
Colonel Abdul Rahman also said in this statement that security and defense forces had been forced to carry out a coup due to the severity of the security circumstances as well as bad governance. The colonel asked foreign countries to refrain from any interference in Niger’s internal affairs.
Abdul Rahman also announced that government institutions were suspended, all borders of Niger were closed, and a military government was set up throughout the country. The Nigerien armed forces issued a statement signed by General Issa Abdou Sidikou, Chief of Staff of the Niger Army, expressing their support for the coup in order to prevent bloodshed and protect the lives of the President and his family as well as the security of the people of the country.
One day after the coup was announced in Niger, President Mohamed Bazoum swore in a message posted on social media to protect democratic achievements. His Foreign Minister, Hassoumi Massaoudou, also asked his supporters and democratic forces to stand up against the coup plotters.
The resistance of Bazoum and his government has led his supporters to launch protests in front of the Presidential Palace and demand the release of the President as well as an end to the coup. Niger’s military supporters also gathered in front of the National Assembly with the Russian flag in their hands and they chanted anti-French slogans. They also set fire to the headquarters of Niger’s Party for Democracy and Socialism (the ruling party) in Niamey, which was confronted by the police of the African country.
The military, in their next step, formed the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland on July 28 and appointed General Omar Chiani, the commander of the Presidential Guard, as the leader of the council.
French President Emmanuel Macron described the coup in Niger as illegitimate and announced France’s readiness to work with regional organizations to sanction the coup leaders. European countries and the United States also expressed their support for President Bazoum and called for his release. The African Union issued a 15-day ultimatum to the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland to restore the previous government to power.
The military forces of Niger considered this ultimatum a declaration of war against Niger and declared their readiness to defend the African country. Along with the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has strongly reacted to the coup in Niger and issued a joint statement on July 30 with the aim of suspending trade and financial transactions with Niger and imposing sanctions on the coup leaders. The 15-member group of ECOWAS has given one week for the release of President Bazoum as well as the restoration of the presidency, threatening to take all necessary measures, including military action, if the demands are not met. The latest news indicates that ECOWAS has approved an attack on Niger, and military invasion will kick off soon.
Along with the intensification of foreign threats against the military forces of Niger, two countries of Burkina Faso and Mali, in a joint statement on July 31, considered any foreign military intervention in Niger as a declaration of war against these two countries as well. It should be mentioned that the governments of these two neighboring countries were also dependent on France in the past and were under the influence of this European power, but they came out of French domination as a result of similar coups.
The Interim President of Guinea Mamady Doumbouya also announced that he would not participate in any action against Niger in a similar position to Mali and Burkina Faso. Algeria also opposed any foreign military intervention in Niger.
However, the most interesting position by the foreign states was the reactions from the Russian government and head of the private military company Wagner Yevgeny Prigozhin. The Russian Foreign Ministry called the interference in Niger’s affairs unfounded and described Russia’s position as the need for normalizing the situation and getting on the path of law. In contrast to this position, Prigozhin introduced himself as responsible for the coup in Niger on a Telegram channel attributed to the official channel of the Wagner group, and he called this action an attempt by the people of Niger to gain independence from colonialism.
In general, Niger is an important military and security partner of France in the West Africa region, and after the withdrawal of French troops from Mali, the Niamey base became the main French base in Africa. In addition, the CIA’s drone base is located in the northeastern part of the country. Niger has several high-quality uranium mines, and according to statistics, this African country, with a 5% share of global uranium production, is the seventh largest producer of this valuable material in the world, most of which is exported to France and Europe.
Moreover, part of the project to transfer Nigeria’s gas to Europe under the name of the Trans-Saharan Gas Pipeline (TSGP) passes through the neighboring country. The change of government in Niger with the support of the Wagner group or Russia will force the French to leave this African nation as the move was done in Mali and Burkina Faso in recent years. The military defeat of the Western powers in Afghanistan and the West Asia region, the war between Russia and Ukraine, economic problems, and son on have caused colonial powers to become passive against military and security movements such as recent coups in West Africa; so, they have no tools other than economic pressures and empty threats. In case of success of the Niger coup, we should expect the domino-like collapse of French plans in this region and their military withdrawal from Group of Five (G-5) nations.