27 July 2023

Crisis in Niger as Presidential Guards Seize President Mohamed Bazoum in Staged Coup

The seizure of President Mohamed Bazoum by his own guards and the subsequent blockade of his residence and key ministries has shaken the West African nation of Niger. As a key ally in the fight against Islamist militancy in the region, President Bazoum’s leadership has been crucial in maintaining peace and stability in the country and beyond. The international community has condemned this move by the Presidential Guards, but the situation is far from resolved. 

Niger is a landlocked country in West Africa, with a population of around 25 million people. It is one of the poorest countries in the world, with high levels of insecurity and widespread poverty. President Bazoum, who won the election in December 2020, was seen as a beacon of hope for the country, which has been beset by political, economic, and social challenges for decades.

The reported coup by the Presidential Guards has plunged Niger into uncertainty. The guards are said to have taken the President and his Prime Minister hostage, demanding the release of their comrades who were jailed for plotting a coup in 2015. The situation has led to a tense standoff between the guards and the government, with reports of gunfire and explosions in the capital, Niamey. The blockading of key ministries has also disrupted the functioning of the government, creating further anxiety.

The Presidential Guards of Niger seized President Mohamed Bazoum and blockaded his residence, as well as key ministries. The move has been described as a “fit of temper” by troops, and the President’s office has stated that the Guards unsuccessfully tried to get support from the military. The situation is complicated by the involvement of former leaders in talks to resolve the crisis, but it is not clear if these talks are still taking place.

As news of the president’s seizure spread, crowds in the capital city of Niamey took to the streets in support of their leader. Fortunately, the protests have been mostly peaceful, although soldiers behind the attempted coup fired shots in an effort to break up the crowds. 

The international community has been quick to respond, with condemnation of the coup coming from various quarters. The UN, the EU, and the United States have all condemned the actions of the presidential guards and have called for the immediate release of President Bazoum and his Prime Minister, while the African Union has suspended Niger from its membership. The situation is being closely monitored by neighbouring countries, who are concerned about the implications of the crisis for the stability of the region.

President Bazoum’s leadership has been instrumental in the fight against Islamist militancy in West Africa, making his seizure all the more concerning for the international community. Niger has been dealing with Islamist extremist groups, such as Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Boko Haram, which have been responsible for a wave of violence and instability in the region. The country has also experienced political instability in recent years, with President Bazoum’s predecessor, Mohammed Issoufou, stepping down in April 2021 after a decade in power.

The crisis in Niger comes at a time when the region is facing several other security challenges. There are ongoing conflicts in Mali, Burkina Faso, and the Lake Chad region, which have already displaced millions of people and created humanitarian crises. The instability in Niger could exacerbate the conflicts and put pressure on neighbouring countries, which are already struggling to cope with the existing challenges.

The situation in Niger is a cause for concern for the international community, especially now when the region is grappling with several other security challenges. The reported coup by the presidential guards has plunged the country into uncertainty, and there is a need for urgent action to restore calm and stability. The international community must continue to monitor the situation closely and offer support to the government and the people of Niger as they navigate this crisis. The hope is that the situation will be resolved peacefully, and that Niger can continue on its path towards progress and development. 

By Jesse Cheto

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