Niger army pledges allegiance to coup makers

Army chief says in a statement the decision was necessary to avoid fighting within the armed forces.

Niger’s army has declared allegiance to the defence and security forces that overthrew President Mohamed Bazoum depite his defiant stance and global condemnation of the coup.

In a statement posted on Thursday to X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, army chief of staff Abdou Sidikou Issa said the decision was necessary to “avoid a deadly confrontation between the various forces”.

Members of the Presidential Guard had detained Bazoum inside his palace in the capital, Niamey, early on Wednesday.

In a statement broadcast later on national television, Colonel-Major Amadou Abdramane, spokesperson for a group calling itself the National Council for the Safeguarding of the Country, said that “the defence and security forces … have decided to put an end to the regime you are familiar with”.

“This follows the continuous deterioration of the security situation, the bad social and economic management,” he added.

The soldier said the country’s borders have been closed, and a nationwide curfew was in place. All institutions of the country were also suspended, Abdramane added. He was seated and flanked by nine other officers wearing fatigues as he read out his statement.

On Thursday, the colonel announced on national TV that all activities by political parties in Niger have been suspended until further notice, after the army declared its allegiance to the group.

The mutineers accused France on Thursday of landing a military plane in defiance of their orders to close the country’s borders.

“The French partner bypassed (the decision) on closing land and air borders in order to land an A401-type military aircraft at Niamey international airport this morning at 6:30 am,” Abdramane said in a statement, demanding “once and for all that measures (taken by the coup plotters) be strictly upheld.”

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A ‘coup belt’

Issa’s statement came hours after Niger’s presidency had warned on Wednesday that the army was ready to attack the rebelling presidential guards if they did not back down.

In a statement on the platform X, the presidency said the guards were engaged in an “anti-Republican demonstration” and had tried “in vain” to obtain the support of other security forces.

The coup, the sixth successful one in West Africa since 2020 has sparked global condemnation . United Nations’ Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday urged Bazoum’s captors to release him “immediately and unconditionally.”

There have been two coups apiece in neighbouring Burkina Faso and Mali, as well as alleged attempts in Guinea-Bissau and The Gambia, sparking worries about democracy in a region usually derided as a ‘coup belt’.

There was also a thwarted coup attempt in Niger in March 2021, when a military unit tried to seize the presidential palace days before Bazoum, who had just been elected, was due to be sworn in.

Niger, long seen as an oasis of relative stability in the Sahel, has been serving as the hub for France’s operations against armed groups in the region. Paris has fallen out with former colonies Burkina Faso and Mali who have since sought support from the Russian mercenary group Wagner.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies