African leaders condemn coup attempt against Niger’s president after his home is surrounded

African leaders denounced what they called a coup attempt against the president of Niger on Wednesday. According to the president’s official Twitter account, members of the presidential guard staged a “anti-Republican demonstration” and attempted to rally the support of other security forces.

The tweet from President Mohamed Bazoum’s administration did not mention a coup, and the portion that mentioned the demonstration was eventually removed. However, it stated that the president and his family were doing fine and that the Niger army and national guard “are ready to attack” if the protesters did not desist.

The actions of the presidential guardsman, according to the African Union and Economic Community of West African States commissions, were an attempt to depose Bazoum, who was elected president of Niger two years ago in the country’s first peaceful, democratic transfer of power since its independence from France in 1960.

The ECOWAS Commission, which oversees the initiatives of the 15-nation regional power bloc, declared that 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.”

In the struggle against Islamist militancy, which has devastated western Niger, Bazoum’s leadership has established Niger as a crucial Western ally. A coup attempt was repelled days before the president was inaugurated in, and Niger had several coups in the decades before his inauguration.

It’s unclear what sparked the conflict or whether the members of the presidential guard had imposed restrictions on Bazoum’s travels. Wednesday saw some government agencies and the streets surrounding the presidential palace in Niamey, the nation’s capital, closed off, but the area was otherwise calm.

By late afternoon, a military buildup was present in front of the state radio and television networks’ corporate offices. Armed soldiers and members of the national guard blocked traffic with pick-up trucks that were mounted with machine guns on the highways leading to both buildings.

By the time the AP arrived, the national guard had sent about a dozen reinforcements to guard the radio network. Lockdown orders were given for some foreign security personnel stationed there.

The presidential security encircled Bazoum’s house on Wednesday morning while he and his wife were inside, according to a source close to the president who wasn’t permitted to speak to the media, adding that talks between the parties were in progress.

Threats against Bazoum’s leadership would interfere with Western attempts to maintain stability in the Sahel region of Africa. In March, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken traveled to Niger in an effort to forge closer connections with a place where security conditions were not as bad as in some of its neighbors.

Since 2020, there have been four coups in both Mali and Burkina Faso, and both countries are now under the control of extremists affiliated with the Islamic State and al-Qaida. Also present in those nations are mercenaries from the Russian military enterprise.

Ulf Laessing, director of the Sahel program at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, claimed that Niger and President Bazoum were the West’s only chance for the Sahel region in terms of containing Islamists and Russia’s growing influence. “Western nations have flooded Niger with aid initiatives, ranging from development cooperation to military aid. Even if Bazoum is spared, Niger’s standing as the Sahel’s anchor for stability among Western officials suffers.

The ECOWAS leadership, according to Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, who was chosen this month to chair the commission, will rebuff any efforts to topple the government of Niger.

“It should be quite clear to all players in the Republic of Niger that the leadership of the ECOWAS region and all lovers of democracy around the world will not tolerate any situation that incapacitates the democratically elected government of the country,” Tinubu said in a statement he released in Abuja. “We will exert all reasonable efforts to ensure that democracy is firmly planted, nurtured, well rooted, and flourishes in our region.”

As part of its statement, the African Union urged Africans and Nigeriens 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.”

On Wednesday, Niamey’s streets were as busy as normal, although many locals refrained from talking about the situation until additional details were available.

Another coup attempt, according to security specialists, would exacerbate regional instability.

“The Sahel’s repeated coups signaled the beginning of a new era: an era of militaries being in control, and the end of what it was a hopeful democracy,” said Rida Lyammouri, senior fellow at the Policy Center for the New South, a think tank with offices in Morocco. “Coups did not really address security issues, which was the justification of these coups, as we are seeing in Burkina Faso and Mali,”

“Military coups are simply bad and send countries concerned backward rather than forward toward stability and (a) prosperous future,” Lyammouri

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