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Analyzing the Coup in Niger

Analyzing the Coup in Niger

By RZR News Team
Aug 06, 2023

Fast Facts

  • On July 26, 2023, the head of the President Guard in Niger launched a coup and detained President Mohamed Bazoum and his family
  • Military leaders in Niger seized power from the country’s democratically elected president, making it the third country in many years to fall to a coup in the Sahel region of Africa.
  • The coup has been globally condemned by various Western nations like the United States, France and members of the European Union.
  • The coup’s aftermath brings a high risk for domestic unrest and regional conflict, militant activities, democratic backrolling and disruption to civil liberties and socio-economic consequences due to sanctions.
  • A rise in insecurity and declining economic prospects put Niger in a fragile state and has been unable to stop insurgent attacks from groups like Al-Queda, Islamic State affiliates and Boko Haram despite an increase in foreign forces.

Analysis

While the world should be troubled by the recent coup in Niger, which has undoubtedly undermined overall stability in the region, one should acknowledge that it also reflects a growing trend of African nations pushing back against what they perceive as backward Western values and unwarranted U.S. interventionism.

Foremost, any coup threatens the delicate balance of governance and security in the affected nation. The sudden shift in leadership and the potential for violence disrupt the rule of law and can lead to further instability. For the people of Niger, uncertainty about their future and concerns for their safety are genuine.

Conversely, the coup can be seen as a manifestation of African nations asserting their sovereignty and rejecting perceived Western interference in their internal affairs. For too long, African countries have experienced the imposition of Western values and interests, which can be detrimental to their unique cultural identities and societal norms. Additionally, it costs Western nations precious resources that are being given to countries that Western citizens have no legitimate interest in giving away.

Moving forward, it is crucial to advocate for non-interventionist foreign policies that respect the sovereignty and self-determination of African nations and specifically Niger. Instead of imposing Western ideals, government officials should support and engage in constructive dialogue with African leaders, offering assistance and cooperation on their own terms.

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Late last month, a fraction of the Niger military overthrew President Mohamed Bazoum, citing a “deteriorating security situation” in the ongoing fight against extremist groups that have drawn in powers from the West. With what appeared to be full military support the coup plotters installed General Abdourahmane “Omar” Tchiani as Niger’s new leader. The country’s prime minister and other leaders in the region have expressed that the coup could be a litmus test for West Africa’s democracy

Niger’s politics have been unsettled since being independent from France in the 1960s, with five successful coups against the government in the capital, Niamey. After President Bazoum took office in 2021, it marked the country’s first peaceful, democratic transfer of power since independence and there was a coup attempt 48 hours before the inauguration but the Presidential guards successfully fought off the coup plotters. The escalating fight against extremist groups has deepened tensions between Niger and Western powers. Niger has been labeled the “cornerstone of regional antiterrorism efforts by the U.S. and France; both countries have intervened, deploying over a thousand troops to the country and maintaining military bases there from which to target insurgents and gather intelligence. But reports show that Niger’s military leadership has been dissatisfied with the amount of support and lack of progress. 

All of the reasons for the emergence of this coup can be surmised down to three factors. First, the ethnicity and legitimacy of Bazoum were issues during the last election campaign, being from Niger’s ethnic Arab minority and being labeled as having foreign origins. The military took issue with that being that it is composed of larger ethnic groups and there is a lot of emphasis on ethnic military composition in the country. Second, the number of foreign military troops and bases in the country has not been received well by the military. In 2019, the U.S. opened a drone base in Niger despite protests, which can make the country a target for terrorists and increase instability. Finally, regional organizations such as the Economic Community of West African States and the African Union failing to take a stance against military power seizures in Guinea, Burkina Faso and Mali have made the Nigerien military feel emboldened. The ECOWAS has threatened to use force if the coup plotters do not reinstate Bazoum. 

The consequences are catastrophic for Niger and for the region. The coup represents a backtrack of all the progress made in recent years to come close to building functional state institutions and democratic processes. This will also have major consequences for the neighboring countries in the region, Niger, was represented as a civilian-led pragmatic ally in international efforts to stem a tide of jihadist violence in the Sahel region. As far as the U.S. interests in the region, Niger has always been a chosen partner in regard to the Sahel, the centerpiece for the fight against terrorism and a democratic model and represented as an open, pragmatic ally to Washington. Clearly, there is no winner – the military leaders will interpret and present this as a sign that democracy is a failure and seek support from Russia instead. 

Coups weaken democratic institutions and leave some citizens under the impression that perhaps a democracy may not be a good form of governance, following the military takeovers in other African countries. Stable democratic institutions and fostering peace and stability could work in the best interest of the citizens for a better life living in one of the world’s poorest countries. A military takeover is not an effective way for stability and governance, they exclude citizens and end up working against their own people to stay in power. Strong democratic institutions that can withstand political manipulations will be able to make their way out of instability and insecurity.

– Briauna B

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Africa is no stranger to coups, and the latest one in Niger is only the latest in a series of anti-democratic revolutions across what the media has termed Africa’s “coup belt.” While some West African governments are demanding that President Mohamed Bazoum be reinstated swiftly, neighboring countries Mali and Burkina Faso have expressed support for the coup leaders – an understandable move considering that both of these countries have had coups of their own within the last three years. 

At the same time, protesters in Niger have taken to the streets in support of the military junta, denouncing the previous government and their former colonial power of France while waving Russian flags and singing the praises of Vladimir Putin. This is a very significant development for the region, as it represents a growing dissatisfaction with France in West Africa, feelings that Russia has taken advantage of in order to expand its own influence on Africa. 

While America and Europe’s standings in Africa are on the decline, Putin has stepped in try and etch out stronger economic ties with African nations, using promises of a grain deal to boost his standing in the region. At the center of Russia’s Africa mission though is the infamous Wagner Group, Putin’s private military that has become increasingly involved in Africa and was previously responsible for massacring civilians in Mali and violently defending Russia’s economic interests in the Central African Republic (CAR). Wagner’s presence in Africa is meant to help boost Putin’s ties with African leaders, offering these countries “stability” in exchange for political support on the international stage. In the case of Niger Putin has a special interest in gaining access to Nigerien uranium, a valuable commodity which more than doubled in price since 2020. 

There is no direct evidence Russia was responsible for the coup – but given the pro-Russia protests in Niger and the Junta’s seemingly friendly relationship with Russia-backed Mali, it is reasonable to assume that Niger is beginning to fall into Russia’s sphere of influence. While Western nations might rage and complain that Niger is embracing the Kremlin, there are many legitimate grievances that Africa has with Europe that have never been addressed. Although Russian propaganda can play a role in swaying Africa against Western Europe, it is the violent legacy of French colonialism that is the primary cause of anti-French sentiment in Africa; Putin is merely taking advantage of those already existing feelings.

French President Emmanuel Macron has promised to promote a more equal relationship with Africa, yet the French government continues to economically exploit its former colonies via the CFA Franc, an exploitative monetary program that Macron has refused to reform or abolish. France was also responsible for assassinating dozens of post-colonial African leaders, most infamously being Burkina Faso’s Thomas Sankara in 1987. Given France’s utter lack of respect for African sovereignty in the past, Macron’s condemnation of the coup and his demands that Niger respect French interests in the region ring hypocritical, to say the least.

– Matthew Kimball

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Have you ever heard the saying the enemy of my enemy is my friend? Or its counterpart, the most hated foe is the former friend? Well in a broad sense, one could use this to explain most if not all major events in World history. An example, let us see how the French Revolution’s legacy is unfolding currently in the form of a military coup in Niger. 

While scholars would likely argue there is more than one cause of the French Revolution. For simplicity, let us look at the Storming of Bastille which was both a prison fortress and a symbol of Monarchical authority. The reason for the riots? The crowds wanted to prevent the potential rising of a military coup

Fast forward ten years, the French Revolution is winding down, and a young Corsican general is ready to leave his mark on history. History is full of many things, among them is irony, and the foundations for the political climate of today. Controversies aside, Napoleon was an excellent military strategist, soon controlling most of Western Europe including modern-day Belgium, Holland, parts of Germany, Italy and Croatia. 

Napoleon instituted embargoes on the British that Russia refused to pay, leading to the famous French invasion of Russia. Russia played cat and mouse with Napoleon, gradually leading him deeper into the country, and letting the country’s frigid winters and Napoleon’s ambition fight the battle. Napoleon’s subsequent defeat several years later led to several European countries turning against their former leader. 

This helped to establish Russia’s power and its role in the current global political system. Now, let us return to the situation in Niger. Niger residents elected a president in a democratic system. The Niger president Mohamed Bazoum was overthrown by a coup and is being held captive inside the French Embassy by thousands of supporters of the military coup. 

More than this pro-coup members were waving Russian flags, and chanting “Long live Putin” and “Down with Putin” as the Embassy was invaded. French President Emmanuel Macron condemned the coup and any attacks on French nationals, setting up what could be a historical chapter two of the battle between France and Russia. 

Macron is right to condemn this usurpation of power, elections are by the people and for the people. The people and the people alone must have the power to choose their leaders through a legitimate and peaceful process, not a military coup.

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