One week after the coup in Niger was confirmed and Gen. Abdourahmane Tchianithe declared himself Niger's new leader, the situation remains tense but hopeful as some concessions have been made. There are also concerns about how a call for citizens to mobilise in Niger’s capital will affect Christians.
“We also don't know whether this military junta will be friendly with the church,” shares an Open Doors partner (image is illustrative)
On 1 August, Tchianithe met with different socioeconomic and religious leaders in Niger at the president's palace. (Tchianithe is the president of the National Council for the Safeguarding of the Fatherland [CNSP] – the name for the ruling military junta.) These meetings are seen as a positive sign, though no statement about the meetings have yet been made. Other positive developments in the situation also include the opening of certain country borders (land and air) with Algeria, Burkina Faso, Libya, Mali and Chad.
Currently foreign nationals from America and France, among others, are partially being evacuated from the country. Tchianithe has warned against ‘any interference in the internal affairs’ of the country, following condemnation of the coup from the European Union and others.
The coup, as expected, has also had negative implications on the country and its citizens. ECOWAS, a trade group of 15 West African countries, has imposed sanctions. It includes a halt on all commercial transactions with Niger and a freeze on the country's assets in the regional central bank. According to the country's power provider, neighbouring Nigeria has cut the electricity supply to Niger.
Meanwhile, according to reporting by the Associated Press, CNSP has joined civil society groups in calling for citizens to mobilise in favour of the ruling junta. They have called for this to take place today (Thursday 3 August) in the capital Niamey, to fight for the country’s freedom and push back against foreign interference.
“We are talking about the immediate departure of all foreign forces,” Mahaman Sanoussi, interim coordinator for the M62 civil society group that’s organising the protest. “[We’ll mobilise] against all forms of threats to continue the struggle for the sovereignty of the people. The dignity of the Nigerien people will be respected by all, without exception.”
Local Christians have asked today for the following prayers from their worldwide church family:
On Friday (28 July) Gen. Abdourahmane Tchianithe, head of the presidential guard’s unit, declared himself Niger’s new leader.
Illia Djadi, an Open Doors expert originally from Niger, says that the coup will open the West African nation up to further attacks from Islamic extremists. He warns that it marks ‘a new era of uncertainty as radical groups will make the most of the insecurity’.
Very little is known about Niger’s new self-appointed president. The army general, who also goes by Omar Tchiani, was appointed the head of the presidential guards unit by former President Issoufouand, and is reportedly a close ally of the former African leader. On Friday, Tchiani appeared on state television to explain the reason for the coup, saying Niger needed to change course to avoid ‘the gradual and inevitable demise [of the country]’.
“I feel really sad,” says Illia. “This is an unexpected development. Niger has been a safe haven, an island of peace in a very unstable region.
“Even though the country is facing security challenges around its borders, it’s been the only country in the area which has been able to keep a level of security. There are thousands of refugees in Niger because they feel safe there.
“Niger is the key ally of Western countries in the fight against terrorism. When French troops were kicked out of other West African nations, they were deployed in Niger. Germany did the same. Now there is a new era of uncertainty.
“Niger is joining this group of countries run by the military. There is a kind of domino effect. Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Chad and now Niger. Who’s next? Any political instability can only benefit the Islamist groups. They will all try to benefit from the political instability.”
According to the BBC, leaders from Ecowas, the bloc of West African nations, held crisis talks in Abuja, Nigeria on Sunday (30 July) to discuss the latest coup, following army takeovers in neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso. A statement read out after the summit said that Ecowas had ‘zero tolerance’ for coups. The regional bloc would ‘take all measures necessary to restore constitutional order’ if its demands were not met within a week.
Illia says that what’s happened and continues to play out in other West African nations is ‘telling us a lot’.
“It’s exactly what happened in Mali,” he explains. “It all started in 2012 with the coup over the government’s handling of the Tuareg rebellion. Since then, the country has not recovered. They are still trying to fight against the Islamist jihadists. It’s one coup after another. Then the same thing happened in Burkina Faso. It’s one group trying to fix the other. This latest coup in Niger is really a huge set back and source of concern.
“Niger is a model of democratic achievement. The former president came into power two years ago. He did a lot of positive things to stabilise the country and to address the security issues. This will open the doors to insurgents. What will happen next? The army will have limited capacity to fight against the jihadists.”
In Niamey, Niger's capital, protesters supporting the coup burned French flags, stoned the country's embassy building and started fires before security personnel broke up the demonstrations. There is a growing anti-Western sentiment in western Africa as also seen in Mali and Burkina Faso. Both these countries have sided with Russia through the Wagner military group. Tchiani has not yet said whether the new junta leaders intend to align themselves with Moscow or stick with Niger’s Western partners.
On Tuesday 1 August, the military juntas in Burkina Faso and Mali stated that any forcible attempt to restore President Bazoum would be considered a declaration of war on them, reports the BBC. This warning means the situation could escalate further, involving neighbouring nations in a volatile situation.
Western countries have thrown their support behind the ousted leader. The European Union has suspended its financial support and cooperation to improve security in Niger with immediate effect. “In addition to the immediate cessation of budget support, all cooperation actions in the domain of security are suspended indefinitely with immediate effect,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement.
“A military takeover may cause the United States to cease security and other cooperation with the government of Niger, jeopardising existing security and non-security partnerships,” NSC Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby said, saying the U.S. was ‘deeply concerned’ about developments in Niger.
Soldiers took control of the country in a coup on 26 July. President Mohamed Bazoum is currently being held by soldiers belonging to the presidential guard. Reports share that he is in good health, though still detained by his own guards.
27 July 2023
The Nigerien army have announced a coup live on national television after removing the country’s president, Mohamed Bazoum, from power. On Wednesday, army spokesman Col. Maj. Amadou Abdramane declared the West African country’s borders were closed, a nationwide curfew from 10pm until 5am was in place and all government institutions in the country were suspended.
“We, the defence and security forces... have decided to put an end to the regime you know. This follows the continuing deterioration of the security situation, and poor economic and social governance,” Col. Abdramane read from a statement (translated here from French) on the broadcast.
General Abdourahmane Tchiani has since declared himself the new leader of Niger.
This military takeover marks the ninth coup in the West and Central Africa region in the last decade, after similar coups in neighbouring countries Mali and Burkina Faso (numbers 17 and 23 on the World Watch List respectively). Niger is number 28, after rising 26 places in just two years due to increased Islamic militant control across the country.
There has been some pushback, however. According to the BBC, Foreign Minister Hassoumi Massoudou (the interim prime minister) called on all democrats to ‘make this adventure fail’.
“The country is in tension now,” shares an Open Doors partner in Niger. “There are mixed feelings. There is some kind of mobilisation on social media for people to protest against this coup, that is, for those who want the president to come back to power. Yet there are yet others who support the military.
“We are not sure how the current situation will affect the church in Niger, because we don't know how this new government feels about Western support, especially France.”
During the broadcast, the soldiers warned against any foreign intervention. Last year, France moved its troops to Niger from Mali after the relationship between authorities fell out of step. Similarly, French forces also evacuated from Burkina Faso.
“We also don't know whether this military junta will be friendly with the church, given that there are many Muslims within the army who have extremist views,” they continued. “If they are among this new junta, then persecution for the church may well be on the rise.”
A demonstration has been announced for tomorrow (28 July) from 2pm in Niamey (Niger’s capital city) and across Niger to support the army.
“This possibility of demonstrations will probably bring a lot of tension to the people because tomorrow is Friday; Muslims will gather for prayer and afterwards they will start the protest against foreign involvement currently present in the country,” explains the Open Doors partner. “There is great fear among Christians now, because nobody knows what is going to happen during these protests. They did something like this some years back, which ended up in burning churches and Christian properties, such as shops and houses. Therefore there is a need for prayer regarding tomorrow’s demonstration.
“Please pray for stability in the country, because there are a lot of rumours on social media. Also pray for the church in Niger, and let this new regime favour them.”
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