On July 26, 2023, Niger’s President, Mohamed Bazoum was overthrown in a coup. Presidential Guard Commander General Abdourahamane Tchiani subsequently proclaimed himself leader of the new military-led government. Immediately after Bazoum was removed from office, Tchiani’s government closed the borders, declared a curfew, and suspended operations of various state institutions. For a country that scarcely makes the news at any time, Niger was suddenly front and center, revealing the true nature of its importance, at least in terms of its significance, geographically speaking. The French stand to lose the most, as France has been rapidly losing influence in Africa over the last several years. Western interests, as they stand, appear to be on the losing end of the coup while Russia and Wagner Group appear to be poised to, at the very least, capitalize on it. The coup also threatens to draw the region of West Africa into a multi-national conflict.
To be clear, the events still currently unfolding on the ground in Niger are not yet fully clear. While mainstream media outlets are trying to point the finger at Russia, the alternative media is attempting to blame the United States. Both suggestions may have merit, as does the possibility that the coup was simply a result of government mismanagement, corruption, and ineptitude, or at least the perception of it. It is also possible that the coup came as a result of internal squabbles between government members. Regardless, before knee-jerk reactions and embedded positions cloud judgement, the events in Niger must be examined closely.
The Initial Events
On July 26, 2023, Niger’s Presidency tweeted that the Presidential Guards, commanded by General Abdourahamane Tchiani was engaging in an “anti-Republican demonstration.” It noted that Tchiani’s forces were unable to obtain the support of other security forces. It stated that the President (Barzoum) was well, since reports had emerged that he was being held inside the Presidential Palace in Niamey.
Later, Interior Minister Hamadou Souley was also arrested and held in the palace. About twenty members of the Presidential Guard were seen outside the palace later in the day. Bazoum’s wife, Hadiza and his son, Salem, were also detained with him at the palace.
That morning, the palace and the ministries adjacent to it were blocked off by military vehicles and the palace staff were not allowed to access their offices. It was reported that up to 400 civilians who supported Bazoum approached the palace but were dispersed by the Presidential Guard. Some reports suggest the Guards fired at the civilians but the Guards deny doing so. There was no evidence provided either way. Likewise, the Presidency claimed that there were protests all over the world at the country’s overseas diplomatic missions in support of Bazoum, but no evidence was provided. In response, Niger’s Armed Forces surrounded the Presidential Palace in apparent support of Bazoum, also issuing a statement that they had secured “major strategic points” in the country. BBC then reported loyalist forces had surrounded the state broadcaster ORTN as the US Embassy warned against travel along the Boulevard de la Republique.