Niger general Tchiani named head of transitional government after coup

Self-appointed leader says coup necessary to avoid ‘the gradual and inevitable demise’ of the country.

General Abdourahamane Tchiani, Niger's new strongman, speaking on national television in Niamey on July 28, 2023 [AFP]

Abdourahmane Tchiani, head of Niger’s presidential guard, has named himself head of a transitional government in the West African country, two days after his unit overthrew democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum.

He made the announcement on Friday on state-run television, saying he was the “president of the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland”.

The 62-year-old general also said the intervention had been necessary to avoid “the gradual and inevitable demise” of the country. He said while Bazoum had sought to convince people that “all is going well… the harsh reality (is) a pile of dead, displaced, humiliation and frustration”.

“The security approach today has not brought security to the country despite heavy sacrifices,” Tchiani said.

There was no mention of a timeline for return to civilian leadership.

Tchiani who was drafted to lead the elite unit in 2011, is from Niger’s western region of Tillaberi, close to the border with Mali. He remains a close ally of former President Mahamadou Issoufou – the politician who led the country until 2021.

The general reportedly led the resistance to a thwarted coup attempt in March 2021, when a military unit tried to seize the presidential palace days before Bazoum, who had just been elected, was due to be sworn in.

On Wednesday, Tchiani’s unit detained Bazoum in the presidential palace in the capital, Niamey, provoking a flurry of condemnation from leaders within Africa and beyond. It remains unclear where Bazoum is or if he is still being detained.

‘An end to the regime’

Colonel Amadou Abdramane, spokesperson of the group which took power, said on state TV on Friday that the constitution had been suspended. He added that Tchiani, head of the ruling council was also head of state.

On Wednesday, Abdramane had appeared on state TV to announce that security forces had decided to “put an end to the regime that you know due to the deteriorating security situation and bad governance”.

Abdramane said Niger’s borders are closed, a nationwide curfew declared, and all institutions of the republic suspended. The soldiers warned against any foreign intervention, adding that they will respect Bazoum’s well-being.

Hours later, a defiant Bazoum had said the country’s “hard-won gains” in establishing democracy would be protected.

“All Nigeriens who love democracy and freedom would want this,” he said early on Thursday on the social platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

The coup is the fifth successful one in the landlocked country since it gained independence from France.

But it was also the sixth – after one in Guinea and two apiece in Burkina Faso and Mali – in West Africa in three years, resurrecting the moniker “coup belt” for the region amid fears of implications for the security of the greater Sahel, one of the world’s most unstable areas in recent years.

Source: Al Jazeera