NIAMEY, July 27 – Supporters of a coup in Niger have set the headquarters of the ruling party in the capital Niamey ablaze, following the army command’s endorsement of the takeover executed by the presidential guard soldiers.
Plumes of thick black smoke engulfed the building as hundreds of coup supporters gathered in front of the National Assembly before heading towards the headquarters. The police used tear gas to disperse the crowd, which included individuals waving Russian flags and expressing resentment towards former colonial power France, as well as its influence in the Sahel region.
The army, in a statement signed by its chief of staff, announced its support for the soldiers who declared that they had removed President Mohamed Bazoum from power in a televised address. The army emphasized its commitment to avoid destabilizing the country and protecting the safety of the president and his family. It urged against any deadly confrontation that could lead to a bloodbath and endanger the population’s security.
It remains unclear who will take over the leadership from President Bazoum. The presidential guard, led by General Omar Tchiani, is usually responsible for protecting the president and his entourage.
The coup comes amid deteriorating security conditions and governance challenges. Since 2012, the region has witnessed a growing jihadist insurgency that has caused thousands of deaths and displaced over 6 million people across the Sahel.
The coup attempt has received international condemnation from the African Union, ECOWAS, and Germany. France, despite an airspace closure, landed a military aircraft in Niger.
Niger’s strategic importance in combating the violent insurgency in the region had grown as neighbouring countries, Mali and Burkina Faso, moved closer to Russia and distanced themselves from Western allies after their military coups in 2020 and 2022, respectively.
President Bazoum and Foreign Minister Hassoumi Massoudou called on democratic forces in the country to resist the power grab. The coup attempt marks the seventh in West and Central Africa since 2020.
Political party activities have been suspended, and the situation remains fluid as regional mediation efforts are underway. Frustration over state failures to prevent attacks on towns and villages has contributed to recent coups in the region, including Mali and Burkina Faso.