Niger’s President Mohamed Bazoum has said “hard-won gains” in establishing democracy in the West African country will be protected hours after being toppled in a coup led by members of his presidential guard in Niamey, the capital.
“The hard-won gains will be safeguarded,” Bazoum said early on Thursday on the social platform X, formerly known as Twitter. “All Nigeriens who love democracy and freedom would want this.”
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Bazoum’s Foreign Minister Hassoumi Massoudou also posted on X, calling on “all democrats and patriots” to make this “perilous adventure” fail.
But Colonel Amadou Abdramane, spokesperson of the Nigerien army, said on state TV on Wednesday that security forces had decided to “put an end to the regime that you know due to the deteriorating security situation and bad governance”.
Abdramane said Niger’s borders are closed, a nationwide curfew declared, and all institutions of the republic are suspended. The soldiers warned against any foreign intervention, adding that they will respect Bazoum’s well-being.
The military takeover marks the sixth coup in West Africa since 2020.
Meanwhile, foreign leaders have been responding to the breakdown of democracy.
The German foreign ministry said on Thursday it was following the events in Niger with “very great concern”.
“Violence is not a means to enforce political or personal interests,” the ministry asserted in a statement, demanding that Bazoum be released immediately.
The United States also condemned the coup together with other nations in the region and the world, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying the US “resolutely” supported Bazoum as the “democratically elected president of Niger”.
United Nations chief Antonio Guterres said the coup was “unconstitutional” and called for an end to “all actions undermining democratic principles in Niger”.
Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, who is also the chairman of the West African alliance ECOWAS, said the regional bloc’s leadership would resist any attempt to unseat Niger’s government.
The president of neighbouring Benin, Patrice Talon, flew into Niger on Wednesday afternoon to assess the situation after meeting with Tinubu in Nigeria.
Security cooperation with West
Analysts say the latest development in the country of 25 million people could further hamper security cooperation with Western nations in tackling conflict that has spread from Mali over the past decade to engulf the Sahel region.
“There’s over a thousand US military personnel in Niger right now conducting counterterrorism operations, as well as training the Nigerien military,” Africa analyst Cameron Hudson told Al Jazeera.
“We have two drone bases operating there, which surveil the entire Sahel region. But more importantly … I think it was the last remaining democratic state in the entire region. We’ve seen Secretary Blinken – the very first US secretary of state ever to travel to Niger – did so only three months ago, promising more than $150m in humanitarian assistance and political support.
“I think there’s a real question that Washington has to be asking itself right now, if after all of this money and attention and engagement and assistance if we cannot keep Niger on a democratic path, then what are we doing wrong?”
Niger borders Burkina Faso and Mali, where groups such as the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, an ISIL (ISIS) affiliate, and al-Qaeda-affiliated Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM), have competed for power through violence.
One of the poorest countries in the world, Niger is seen as at risk of a possible spillover of violence from Mali, where armed groups have been gaining ground following the withdrawal of French and other European forces.