GP Short Notes # 715, 27 July 2023
In the news
On 26 July, the Niger military, in a coup removed President Mohamed Bazoum. In a national television broadcast, Colonel-Major Amadou Abramane stated: “The defence and security forces … have decided to put an end to the regime you are familiar with.” He announced the dissolution of the constitution, suspension of all institutions and closure of national borders. He added: “This follows the continuous deterioration of the security situation, the bad social and economic management.” He warned: “All external partners are asked not to interfere.”
Responding to the coup, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres strongly condemned it stating: “Any effort to seize power by force and to undermine democratic governance, peace and stability in Niger”. The African Union condemned it and called the African population to “join their voices in unanimous condemnation of this coup attempt, and for the immediate and unconditional return of the felon soldiers to their barracks.”
The ECOWAS stated: “It condemns in the strongest terms the attempt to seize power by force and calls on the coup plotters to free the democratically elected president of the republic immediately and without any condition.”
A statement from the US said: “We specifically urge elements of the presidential guard to release President Bazoum from detention and refrain from violence.”
Issues at large
First, Niger’s complicated past and a history of coups. After gaining independence from France in 1960, Niger experienced four coups and several attempted coups. The last coup was in February 2010, when the military overthrew then-President Mamadou Tandja. In 2011, it restored civilian rule with a new constitution and Mahamadou Issoufou as the president. In April 2021, when Mohamad Bazoum became the President, it was Niger’s first democratic power transfer since independence.
Second, prolonged instability. Two Islamist insurgencies have been plaguing Niger. The first one in the southwest emerged in Mali in 2015 and the second one in the southeast led by jihadists based in northeastern Nigeria. Niger has also been facing the Boko Haram fighters in the south, near the Nigeria border. Groups linked to both al-Qaeda and Islamic State are active in the country. Since 2021, the insurgency in Niger had worsened with frequent attacks. According to the Global Terrorism Index 2023 by the Relief Web, in 2022, at least 198 people died in insurgent attacks, with Niger recording the sixth-highest civilian death toll.
Third, the failure of the government. Besides insurgency, Niger has also been facing a multidimensional crisis attributed to climate change, floods and droughts, increasing food insecurity, the rising cost of living, inflation and corruption. According to a Relief Web report in July, more than 4.4 million people in Niger require immediate humanitarian assistance. Mohamad Bazoum came to power prioritizing fighting against insurgency and corruption and promising to address the economic issues. Even after being a key ally to the Western countries, including the US, France and Germany, in fighting the insurgency in the region, the government was incompetent and ineffective in addressing any of the underlying issues
Fourth, west Africa as a “coup belt.” The coup in Niger marks the seventh coup in cest and central Africa since 2020. There have been four military coups in neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso since 2020. The increasing pattern of military takeovers in the region is predominantly over the failure of the governments in addressing rebel and jihadist insurgencies.
First, despite the 2021 democratic transition under President Mohamed Bazoum implying a significant development toward democracy, Niger has always been vulnerable to a coup owing to its complicated past and the similar trajectories of the neighbouring countries.
Second, an unclear future. The coup outlines uncertainty regarding its relations with the Western countries so as the fight against insurgency. The US, France, Germany, Italy and Canada have troops fighting insurgency in the country. The ties between the West and Mali and Burkina Faso deteriorated followed by the military takeovers. The concern is whether Niger opts similar path to Mali and Burkina Faso.