Niger rocked by Sahel region’s latest coup

Niger’s army has announced it’s backing the soldiers who declared on TV Wednesday night they’d deposed President Mohamed Bazoum. The putschists were mostly from the democratically-elected leader’s presidential guard.

The soldiers said they seized power “following the continued deterioration of the security situation, poor economic and social governance” in Niger.

But they might’ve had other motives: the president was slowly making his own security appointments, and was reportedly set to replace the head of his presidential guard. Either way, this coup has potential geopolitical implications:

  • ☢️ France gets a third of its uranium from Niger (which produces 5% of the world’s total supply)
  • 🚀 Niger hosts French and US troops plus two US drone bases, focused on Islamist insurgencies in the region, and
  • 🗽 The deposed president is Western-aligned (sometimes at the cost of domestic popularity).

Meanwhile, pro-coup protestors are waving Russian flags, and Russia’s Wagner Group says the coup “shows the effectiveness of Wagner.

But Russia’s foreign minister has described it as “unconstitutional”, the White House says it’s seen no credible evidence of Russian involvement, and one of the lead putschists (head of Niger’s special forces) has strong US ties.

Intrigue’s take: This is the seventh coup in western and central Africa since 2020, and it seems largely driven by internal factors. But we’ll be watching how France responds (beyond its initial condemnation).

Researchers have identified rising resentment towards the region’s former colonial power, with neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso both expelling French troops after recent coups. So in response, France had just promised a new approach in Niger. But it may now be too late.

Also worth noting:

  • Bazoum was elected in 2021 in Niger’s first peaceful, democratic transfer of power since independence from France in 1960.
  • Still detained, he tweeted that “all democracy-loving Nigeriens” will ensure “the country’s hard-won achievements will be safeguarded.”
  • Bazoum’s foreign minister claims not all factions of the military are on board with the coup.
  • The African Union, the Economic Union of Western African States, the UN, and others have condemned the coup.
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