NIAMEY – The European Union (EU) has frozen all security collaboration with Niger following a military coup led by the country’s army. This move amplifies the stance of international entities and nations such as the US and France, who have expressed deep concerns over the sudden political upheaval in the West African nation.
The coup comes on the heels of the United States declaring unwavering support for the deposed president, Mohamed Bazoum, widely recognized as a pivotal Western ally in the campaign against Islamist extremism.
In a swift turn of events last Friday, Gen Abdourahmane Tchiani, commander of the presidential guards, proclaimed himself the new head of Niger. He attributed the coup to surmounting challenges like rampant corruption, economic instability, and security threats. However, Western nations are now anxious about the potential international alliances the new leadership might cultivate.
Both Burkina Faso and Mali, Niger’s neighboring countries, have recently aligned more closely with Russia after their respective coups. The EU’s foreign policy lead, Josep Borrell, in alignment with the US and France, denounced the coup leaders, announcing an indefinite suspension of both security cooperation and financial aid to Niger.
Adding to the international response, France, which recently relocated its regional military headquarters to Niger after its eviction from Mali, also froze all development aid and fiscal support.
The African Union, seeking to restore order, has urged the Nigerien army to withdraw within two weeks. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken cautioned the military junta about potential financial repercussions, suggesting hundreds of millions in assistance were at stake.
Meanwhile, Russia’s Wagner mercenary group leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has reportedly praised the coup as a victory against colonization. Wagner, with a notorious reputation and alleged presence in several African countries, including the Central African Republic (CAR) and Mali, reportedly bolsters both Russia’s economic and diplomatic ties in the region.
Having led the presidential guard since 2011, Gen Tchiani had been previously implicated in a 2015 coup attempt against a former president. In his recent address, he assured the international community of Niger’s commitment to global agreements and human rights. However, tensions simmer, as the junta accuses opposition members of conspiring against them from within foreign embassies, threatening severe consequences.
Life in the capital, Niamey, appears to be resuming its regular rhythm, even as government employees have been dismissed. The coup has evoked polarized responses among Nigeriens, with a section supporting the junta, while others view the act as unwarranted.
Niger’s latest coup echoes a series of military overthrows unsettling West Africa, as witnessed in Mali, Guinea, and Burkina Faso. This development is a significant setback for the regional body Ecowas, which had recently called for urgent action against rising terrorism and recurrent coups in the area.
With five coups since its independence from France in 1960, Niger remains at the epicenter of political volatility in West Africa.