President Bazoum was the first elected leader to succeed another in Niger since independence in 1960. Now his captors have suspended the country’s constitution and installed General Abdourahmane Tchiani as head of state. Niger has experienced four coups since independence, which clearly shows that the country has been politically unstable since its inception. This fourth coup is now setting the country backward even further.
The coup was condemned by the international community, including the United States, France, and the United Nations. The African Union also called for the immediate release of Bazoum and a return to constitutional order.
If the United States designates the takeover as a coup, Niger could lose millions of dollars of military aid and assistance. The official reasons for the coup’s occurrence are unclear. However, it is possible that they were motivated by the security challenges facing the country, the economic problems, or a combination of both.
The coup is the seventh in West and Central Africa since 2020. It is a setback for democracy in the region and could have serious consequences for Niger's fight against terrorism.
According to AP News, various factions of Niger’s military have reportedly wrangled for control since members of the presidential guard detained President Bazoum. Extremists in Niger have carried out attacks on civilians and military personnel, but the overall security of the country does not seem as dire as in neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso—both of which have ousted the French military. Mali has turned to the Russian private military group Wagner, and it is believed that the mercenaries will soon be in Burkina Faso.
In 2015, Tchiani was involved in a failed coup against then-President Mahamadou Issoufou. The coup was reprimanded and Tchiani was arrested and convicted for high treason. In 2018, however, charges were dropped and he was promoted to general.
We can clearly see that Tchiani wanted political power for a long time as he desperately tried to seize power for eight years in a failed coup attempt. Now that his coup was successful and he declared himself president, what’s next for Niger?
While democracy does not equal freedom, the preservation of the democratic process is crucial to maintain political stability, especially for countries like Niger that have been unstable since its independence. The reality is that political stability is what ensures foreign investments in a country and props up its economic growth. A country that is politically unstable presents a very high risk for its macroeconomic conditions. In the case of Niger, the country's economy has been struggling, with high levels of poverty and unemployment.
The coup is a clear setback for the advancement of the democratic process in Niger and the region. It is also a blow to the fight against terrorism in the Sahel. It is too early to say what the long-term implications of the coup will be. However, it is clear that Niger is facing a period of uncertainty and instability.