Pressure piles on the junta in Niger to restore constitutional order

The Secretary of State of the United States, Antony J. Blinken has spoken with Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum, who is being held hostage by “the Presidential Guard Brigade” inside the presidential palace in the capital, Niamey. This follows the July 26, 2023 coup d’etat subsequent to which, presidential Guard commander Gen. Abdourahamane Tchiani declared himself the country’s new leader. It is the 5th coup since Niger obtained independence.

Blinken reaffirmed the commitment of the United States of America to the restoration of the democratically-elected government headed by President Mohamed Bazoum. This is consistent with the position of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union, and other international partners.

The current ECOWAS chairperson and Nigerian president Bola Tinubu has warned in no uncertain terms that any attempts to truncate constitutional order in any ECOWAS member country, will not be tolerated. Niger is a member of ECOWAS.  On July 30, ECOWAS issued the Nigerien military junta with an ultimatum that Bazoum be reinstated as president within one week.

Côte-d’Ivoire issued a statement in which it supported the ECOWAS sanctions and announced the country’s participation in preparation for a military intervention in Niger. Press reports indicate that Niger is experiencing power blackouts already after President Tinubu reportedly directed the power transmission company of Nigeria to cut off the supply lines. Gen. Tchiani is adamant that his regime would not give in to any threats.

Secrets Known has learned that President Bazoum who has been in power for only two years following the general election in December 2020, has refused to resign under pressure from the Junta. Citizen observers in Niger reported that the 2020 general election was one of the most monetised and commercialised the country had ever experienced. Analysts attribute the coup to the rising cost of living and perceptions of government incompetence and corruption.

The junta has suspended all political party activities in the country until further notice. The Parliament of Niger draws representation from 19 political parties of which the Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism party of President Bazoum commands numerical supremacy with 79 legislators out of 171.

Gen. Abdourahamane Tchiani has said the coup was undertaken to avoid “the gradual and inevitable demise” of the country, and said that Bazoum had tried to hide “the harsh reality” of the country, which he called “a pile of dead, displaced, humiliation and frustration”. He also criticized the government’s security strategy and lack of collaboration with Mali and Burkina Faso but did not give a timeline for a return to civilian.

The coup came in the wake of recent coups in nearby countries namely; Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Sudan, which has led to the region being called a “coup belt”. Continental citizen observers’ group, African Election Observers Network (AfEONet) has expressed concerns about a possible domino of military takeovers in other African countries which are failing to organise credible elections. Elections should be made to work for the people and they should be genuine.

It remains to be seen whether or not the junta in Niger will be deterred by rhetoric by ECOWAS, the United States, and European Union. ECOWAS’s sanctions did not work on Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea Conakry.

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