Notes on the Coup in Niger

The Nigerien presidential guards besieged the presidential palace and surrounding ministries in Niamey on July 26th, sealing President Mohamed Bazoum inside the palace and forcing negotiations. It was reported that President Bazoum had been considering sacking the presidential guards’ head in the days before the attempted coup. The presidential guards first seemed to lack broader support. Other Nigerien defense and security forces did not join the presidential guards. It was said that the Nigerien Armed Forces and national guard have remained loyal to the president and are prepared to retake the palace. But the coupists played their cards well, especially the anti-France feeling of the broad masses of the Nigerien people. Hence, Niger’s army high command on Thursday declared its support for the coup carried out the previous day, saying its priority was to avoid destabilizing the country.

Map of Niger; source: operationworld

Niger or officially the Republic of the Niger is a landlocked country in West Africa. It is has state borders with Libya, Chad, Nigeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali and Algeria. It covers a land area of almost 1,270,000 km², making it the largest country in West Africa. Over 80% of its land area lies in the Sahara. Niger is one of the poorest countries – if not the poorest – in the world.

Multidimensional Poverty Index; source: United Nations Development Programme and Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative

In the 1885 “Berlin conference”, in which the colonial powers outlined the division of Africa into spheres of their influence, France gained control of the upper valley of the Niger River (roughly equivalent to the present territory of Mali and Niger). France then set about making a reality of their rule on the ground, in 1897. In 1899–1900 France coordinated three expeditions which eventually met at Kousséri (in the north of Cameroon) and defeated Rabih az-Zubayr’s forces at the Battle of Kousséri. The expeditions became notorious for pillaging, looting, raping and killing local civilians. On 8 May 1899 captain Voulet and his men murdered all the inhabitants of the village of Birni-N’Konni in what is regarded as “one of the worst massacres in French colonial history”. The Military Territory of Niger was subsequently created by the French within the “Upper Senegal and Niger” colony (Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger) in December 1904 with its capital at Niamey. On 3 August 1960, Niger officially became formally independent.

Niger’s economy is concentrated around subsistence agriculture, with some export agriculture in the less arid south, and export of raw materials, especially uranium ore, producing 7% of all global supplies and up to 40 percent of France’s. It has a very low literacy rate, some so-called jihadist insurgencies and one of the world’s highest fertility rates.

Especially the Yankees, but also French and German imperialism, are very concerned on the outcome of the coup. The Institute of the Study of War wrote: “A successful coup in Niger would likely further strengthen al Qaeda and the Islamic State by preoccupying Nigerien security forces and hindering international security cooperation. Niger is the last remaining Western partner in the tri-border area of Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger after the coups in Burkina Faso and Mali.”

Several countries, including France, Germany and the USA, have troops stationed in Niger or are planning to withdraw their troops from Mali to Niger after the failure of their aggression based on a UN mission. Niger is today the largest recipient of US State Department military assistance in West Africa and the second highest in sub-Saharan Africa. The American Security Council Foundation lately stated: “Niger is vital to U.S. counterterrorism efforts in Africa. It’s one of the few countries in the region that has agreed to house U.S. drone bases and hundreds of American Special Forces and logistics experts, who are involved in counterterrorism operations against Boko Haram and ISIS affiliates.”

Some informal Russian sources claimed the coup leaders were associated with the Wagner mercenaries, alleging that Wagner supported the faction of Colonel-Major Amadou Abdramane, which seized control of the presidency. The Russian military blogger Boris Rozhin reported that Wagner would soon receive an invitation from a “free” Niger. According to reports of the Atlantic Council, the head of the Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, himself recently stated about expanding their presence in Africa. “Niger will probably move to the top of the list of countries where the Wagner Group of mercenaries will seek to expand, if Mohamed Bazoum resigns from the presidency”, another Yankee-think-tank wrote. Prigozhin described the developments as part of Niger’s fight against the “colonisers”. His comments were published at the moment when several hundred people gathered in Niamey and chanted support for Wagner while waving Russian flags. Wagner mercenaries are active in neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso. Some coup supporters who ransacked and set fire to Niger’s ruling party headquarters in the capital, waved Russian flags as plumes of smoke billowed from the building.

caption: “Down with France, long live Putin” reads the Poster on a demonstrations where Russian flags were waved; source: Verified News Explorer Network

The African Union on Friday issued an ultimatum to the coupist to reinstall the country’s previous government, just as the coup leaders met with senior civil authorities to discuss how they would run the country. The AU demanded the military to return immediately and unconditionally to their barracks and restore constitutional authority, within a maximum of fifteen days. Bazoum should also be released immediately and unconditionally. Failure to do so would compel the bloc to take “necessary action, including punitive measures against the perpetrators. The United States and the European Union also threatened sanctions against the new regime. French president Macron announced military intervention in the case that French citizens or property would be attacked, which shows how frightend they really are facing the justified hatred of the masses.

The head of the military coup said that the regional ECOWAS (who has now sanctioned the coupists), could stage a military intervention in the capital of the Sahel country: “The aim of this meeting is to approve a plan of aggression against Niger, in the form of an imminent military intervention in Niamey, in cooperation with African countries who are not members of the regional body and certain Western nations.” Such an intervention is only possible with a direct Yankee mandate and would mean a full-fledged war in the region.

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