Niger coup: Abdourahamane Tchiani declares himself ruler – but France warns of sanctions

Emmanuel Macron says France won’t recognise leaders of ‘dangerous’ coup

Friday 28 July 2023 19:31 BST
General Abdourahamane Tchiani siezed power in Niger
General Abdourahamane Tchiani siezed power in Niger (AFP/Getty)

General Abdourahamane Tchiani, the head of the presidential guard that has overthrown Niger’s president, declared himself leader on Friday and defended the coup as necessary to tackle “insecurity”.

He said soldiers had seized power from president Mohamed Bazoum to protect the country against jihadist insurgents that have destabilised nearby Mali and Burkina Faso.

Security has remained a problem since Mr Bazoum was elected in 2021 as jihadists who took root in neighbouring Mali in 2012 gained ground, killing thousands and displacing over six million across west Africa’s Sahel region.

Niger is a key ally of Western countries in tackling Islamist insurgencies in west Africa and a number of foreign troops are based there, including from France and the United States, which have both denounced Wednesday’s actions.

“The harsh reality of insecurity in Niger, experienced by our defence forces and hardworking populations, with its toll of deaths, displacement, humiliation, and frustration, reminds us on a daily basis of this stark reality,” Mr Tchiani said.

“What sense lies in the security approach against terrorism that excludes any genuine collaboration with Burkina Faso and Mali, even though we share the Liptako-Gourma zone, where most of the terrorist group activities we are fighting against are concentrated,” he added.

West Africa’s main regional bloc, the Economic Community of West African States, will hold an emergency summit on Niger in Nigeria’s capital Abuja on Sunday. ECOWAS has previously called for Mr Bazoum’s immediate release and a return to constitutional order.

“Any breakdown in the constitutional order will have consequences for cooperation between the EU and Niger, including the immediate suspension of all budgetary support,” the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said in a statement.

French president Emmanuel Macron said he was prepared to back sanctions against the perpetrators of the “dangerous” coup, after his foreign minister said the power grab did not appear to be definitive.

Former colonial power France has made Niger the cornerstone of its more than decade-long counter-insurgency operations against Islamist militants in the Sahel region.

“France does not recognise the authorities that emerged from the putsch led by General Tchiani,” the foreign ministry in Paris said in a statement “President Mohamed Bazoum, democratically elected by the people of Niger, is the only president of the Republic of Niger.”

Mr Tchiani said he would respect all commitments made to the international community.

“I also ask the technical and financial partners and friends of Niger to understand the specific situation of our country and provide all necessary support to help it overcome the challenges it faces,” he added.

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