By Yusef Taylor and Edward Francis Dalliah
After the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) issued statements condemning a Niger “coup attempt” on 26th July 2023, the Spokesperson of the military group announced that “they have decided to put an end to the regime”. In a statement aired in a news report by German public media, Deutsche Welle (DW), the military group identified itself as “the Defence and Security Forces under the National Committee for the Salvation of the People”.
DW notes that this is the fifth coup attempt in Niger since its independence from France in 1960. According to Aljazeera two days before the currently overthrown Niger President, Mohamed Bazoum was sworn in, the “security force thwarted an attempted military coup” on his unsworn government.
Soon after the latest coup attempt was announced, ECOWAS released a statement calling for “the coup plotters to free the democratically elected President of the Republic immediately and without any condition”. DW reported that President Bazoum had been detained for hours by his guards in the presidential palace.
Citing reasons for the coup, the Spokesperson for the military group, Colonel-Major Amadou Abdramane, said it was “in view of the security situation and poor economic and social governance”. The coup plotters also declared the closure of Niger’s “borders, a curfew and all institution of the republic suspended”.
In an act of defiance, the overthrown Niger President, took to social media to announce that “the hard-won achievements will be safeguarded. All Nigerians who love democracy and freedom will see to it”. President Bazoum was elected as the first Democratic Transitional President of the Republic in 2021 and was sworn into office in the month of April as he promised to improve security and education in the landlocked country.
The new Chairperson of ECOWAS President Bola Tinubu, US President Joe Biden and the UN have also released statements condemning the coup. According to the Nigerian news outlet The Tribune, the Nigerian President and ECOWAS Chairperson warned that “a military takeover in one of its [ECOWAS] member-states would be rejected”. In recent years West Africa has faced a number of coups with democratically elected governments such as Mali, Guinea Conakry and Burkina Faso forcefully taken over by military groups. In December 2022 The Gambia announced that a coup plot against the Government of President Adama Barrow had been foiled.
The AU’s statement rallied support to condemn the coup when it urged the “people of Niger, all their brothers in Africa, particularly ECOWAS, and worldwide, to join the voices in unanimous condemnation of this coup attempt”. A DW report on the coup showed the people of Niger out in the streets of the capital Niamey in huge numbers condemning the military takeover.
One youth told the DW Camera crew: “We are not happy about this movement going on. So, we are youths. And we are going to show all these military people they just can’t take a shortcut and take power like this. No. We are a democratic country, we support democracy and we don’t need this kind of movement”. Another citizen declared his condemnation saying: “We’re here to defend democracy, we’re here to defend the Republic, we’re here to show our commitment to the rule of law and say no to any attempt to seize power by force or arms”.
In a France 24 interview with Niger’s Foreign Affairs Minister Hassoumi Mossoudou, he asserted that “the democratically elected government was still the legitimate and legal authority in the West African country, asking all fractious soldiers to return to their ranks and highlighting that everything can be achieved through dialogue, [however], institutions of the republic must function”.