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Niger’s President Outsed in a Military Coup: Seven Coups in the Sahel Since 2020.


The Niger Coup Leaders are seen on national television making an address. Source: Reuters


Between August 2020 and September 2022, the Sahel Region witnessed six coups, five of which were successful. Niger’s coup becomes the seventh in just about two years. Questions as to when the Sahel will ever be peaceful again linger.


Niger Army spokesman Colonel Amadou Abdramane has news for you today. It is not good news. He says the defense and security forces had decided to "put an end to the regime that you know due to the deteriorating security situation and bad economic and social governance" on national TV on Wednesday. Apparently, Mohamed Bazoum’s has been removed from the presidency and is being held by the army.


Who is Mohamed Bazoum?

According to his Wikipedia page, Mohamed Bazoum was born on January 1, 1960, in Bilabrine, Niger. He was a prominent political figure in Niger and became the country's second democratically elected president. By the time of his ousting, he had only been in power for about two years and four months. Before he became president, Mohamed Bazoum was involved with Niger politics for decades. He held both party and government positions, including being Minister of Foreign Affairs of Niger, Minister of State for the Interior, President of the National Assembly of Niger, party leader, and presidential candidate for the Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS-Tarayya) which led to his victory in the 2020 presidential elections. He was officially sworn in as president of the West African country on April 2, 2021, succeeding President Mahamadou Issoufou, who held the office for 10 years.


Why was Mohamed Bazoum Ousted?

According to the coup leaders, the removal of Mohamed Bazoum stems from economic, security, and social issues. Although they did not clearly explain their grievances, let’s try to analyze the West African nation.


Niger was a French colony until 1960 when it gained independence. However, the country experienced decades-long political instability marked by a series of coups. At independence, the country experienced military rule until dictator General Ali Saibou was forced out of office through a coup in 1999, ushering in President Tandja. Again, in February of 2010, military officers ousted Tandja in another coup that deposed President Tanja, leading to President Issoufou Mahamadou. Issoufou was elected in April 2011 and re-elected in early 2016. In February 2021, Mohamed Bazoum became the second democratically elected president of the country.


According to the CIA World Factbook, Niger has the world’s youngest population, followed by Uganda, with a median age of 14.8 and 15.7, respectively. A recent World Bank report indicated that more than 10 million people in Niger (41.8% of the population) lived in extreme poverty in 2021. Niger was named among the top 10 poorest countries in the world in 2023. Paradoxically, a recent report put Niger first among Africa’s most resource-endowed countries as rich in uranium, coal, cement, and gold.


The Sahel region witnessed six coups in 11 months between 2020 and late 2022, including in Mali (August 2020 and May 2021), Chad (April 2021), Guinea (September 2021), Sudan (October 2021), and Burkina Faso (January and September 2022). Niger’s coup becomes the seventh in the region in about two years.


Post-colonial Africa experienced large-scale violence involving brutality toward the ordinary citizens of the continent. Of the 53 African Union member countries, 48 have endured post-independence armed conflict. Although the number of state-based conflicts in Africa decreased from 30 in 2020 to 25 in 2021, Africa generally experiences high conflict occurrences. According to Geneva Academy research, the continent currently faces at least 35 Non-International Armed Conflicts (NIACs), mostly concentrated in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Central African Republic (CAR), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia, South Sudan, and Sudan.


What Is Being Done About The Series Of Conflicts?

The African countries have employed several approaches to dealing with their security challenges, ranging from unilateral, bilateral, multi-lateral, and, more recently, the involvement of regional integration in approaching peace and security.


In Western Africa, ECOWAS has strengthened member states' economies and forged regional peace. For instance, the ECOWAS Monitoring Group (ECOMOG), set up in 1990, supported conflict resolution efforts in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau, and other regional states. The Accra Initiative is yet another example of a contemporary peace and security formation in the ECOWAS region, comprising five member states: Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, and Togo, as well as two observers: Mali (2009) and Niger (2009). Since its inception, the Accra Initiative has conducted several activities as per its mandate, including Operation Koudanlgou I (May 2018), Operation Koudanlgou II (November 2018), Operation Koudanlgou III (November 2019), training of personnel in Côte d’Ivoire (2020), and most recently, the International Conference on Accra Initiative (November 2022).


Elsewhere in Africa, formations such as the East African Community (EAC), the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) are not merely regional economic cooperations (RECs) but have expanded their mandates to cover issues of transnational importance, such as peace and security. For instance, the EAC’s Political Federation aims to integrate the East African region to foster peace and security, good governance, and economic prosperity. At the continental level, the African Union (AU) intervenes in peace and security matters through its Peace and Security Council (PSC). Through the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA), the PSC promotes peace, security, and stability in Africa.


What’s The World Saying About the Coup?

The US has said it “resolutely supports” the ousted leader and asked for his immediate release. China also has a strong relationship with Niger. In 2020, through UNICEF, China donated $1 million under the South-South Cooperation Assistance Fund (SSCAF) to Niger. In the China-Niger investment forum held in April, Beijing and Niamey discussed even more investments in the West African country, including industrial parks, uranium mines, and oil pipelines.


France has recently moved its troops from Mali to Niger after the Mali government invited the Russian Wagner Group instead. France had been active in the Sahel, fighting the Islamic State insurgents. It is unclear if the new Niger military government will keep working with France and other Western allies or invite the Russians.


In recent times, West Africa has witnessed a concerning trend of military coups becoming more prevalent. After gaining independence from colonial rule, many countries in the region experienced political instability before eventually transitioning to democracy. Nevertheless, some nations are regressing and experiencing a resurgence of military rule, leading to heightened political and social challenges.


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