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Niger coup: Head of presidential guard Abdourahmane Tchiani declares himself as new head of state

The military general said that the troops took over the government due to several problems related to economic crises and corruption, and vowed to fulfill Niger's international commitments.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee Niamey (Niger) Published on: July 29, 2023 7:23 IST
General Abdourahmane Tchiani, head of Niger's presidential
Image Source : AP General Abdourahmane Tchiani, head of Niger's presidential guard, in a televised address.

A day after Niger soldiers staged a coup and removed President Mohamed Bazoum from power, head of the Presidential Guard General Abdourahmane Tchiani on Friday named himself as the new head of state. This came after the general asked for national and international support for the country amid the latest political crisis.

According to spokesperson Col. Maj. Amadou Abdramane's remarks on state television, the constitution was suspended and Tchlani was in charge of the nation. Tchlani's own guards had seized Niger's President on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, President Bazoum is being held captive by his own guards and is reportedly in good health, BBC reported. Bazoum was considered a key leader among Western leaders to fight insurgency and terrorism in the African region.

Earlier on Thursday, Col Maj Amadou Abdramane, with nine other formally dressed fighters behind him, said, "We, the protection and security powers... have chosen to stop the system you know." 

They said all establishments in the nation would be suspended, borders were shut, and a time limit had been forced until additional notification, from 10 pm to 5 am. "The hard-won achievements will be safeguarded. All Nigeriens who love democracy and freedom will see to it," Bazoum tweeted early Thursday morning.

Who is General Tchlani?

The 62-year-old Gen Tchlani, also known as Omar Tchlani, has been in charge of Niger's presidential guard since 2011 and was promoted to the rank of general in 2018 by then-President Mahamadou Issoufou. He was named in a 2015 coup attempt against Issoufou, but denied all reports.

Tchlani said that his junta took over the government in lieu of several problems in the nation, such as economic crises, corruption and insecurity. He also promised to respect all of the country's international commitments and human rights. 

"We can no longer continue with the same approaches proposed so far, at the risk of witnessing the gradual and inevitable demise of our country. That is why we decided to intervene and take responsibility," he said in a televised address.

The soldiers also accused some dignitaries of colluding with foreign embassies to “extract” the deposed leaders and warned of further bloodshed if the foreign intervention continues.

Reactions after the coup

The deposing and detainment of Bazoum, who was elected in 2021 in Niger's first peaceful and democratic transfer of power, was met with strong condemnation from Western countries and the West African regional group ECOWAS. Niger was seen as a Western partner to battle extremist groups like Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in the Sahel region.

France refused to recognise the coup's leaders in Niger. "We reiterate in the strongest terms the international community's clear demand for the immediate restoration of constitutional order and democratically elected civilian power," said the French foreign ministry in a statement.

The UN Security Council held emergency consultations on Friday and the ECOWAS has scheduled an emergency summit in Nigeria's capital Abuja on Sunday.

"We are considering any decision to control or undermine the operation of the President Bazoum-led government's fair elections in Niger," said Jack Sullivan, White House Homeland Security Adviser. "We ask the leaders to release President Bazum and not harm him."

However, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of Russian private army Wagner, described the developments as part of Niger’s fight against the “colonisers.” “It effectively means winning independence," he added.

Wagner already had its sights set on Niger, in part because it’s a large producer of uranium sought after by Russia. But Bazoum posed an impediment because of his pro-French and pro-Western stance. Russia has also condemned the coup, it remains unclear what the junta's position would be on Wagner.

The coup in Niger is one of many latest military takeovers after similar seizure of powers in Mali and Burkina Faso, countries that are also grappling with a dire security situation. Mali has also turned to Wagner mercenaries for help, sparking concerns that Niger will follow suit.

Situation in Niger

Despite the recent political imbroglio, the streets of Niger's capital Niamey remained calm on Friday and some cars were seen honking in solidarity with the security forces as they drove by. "I hope this administration does a good job,” said Gerard Sassou, a Niamey shopkeeper.

A day earlier, hundreds of people were seen waving Russian flags and supporting Wagner, which further increases Western fears.

Notably, Niger is a landlocked West African nation and has experienced four coup attempts since its independence from France in 1960. The state is one of the most unstable nations in the world. Later in February 2010, the country witnessed its last coup wherein then president Mamadou Tandja was overthrown.

In March 2021, a coup was attempted just two days before Bazoum was set to take oath of the President, but was failed. 

ALSO READ | Niger President Bazoum's first response after mutinous soldiers declare coup: 'Democracy would prevail'

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