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Coup: Niger military chief finally declares self as head of govt

Head of Niger’s presidential guard, Abdourahmane Tchiani, has named himself as head of a transitional government, two days after his unit overthrew democratically elected President,…

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

Tchiani made the announcement on Friday on the state 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, Al Jazeera reports.

He said that while Bazoum had sought to convince people that “all is going well… the harsh reality (is) a pile of dead, displaced, humiliation and frustration”.

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“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 2015, is from Niger’s western region of Tillaberi, a main recruitment area for the army. 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.

Colonel Amadou Abdramane, spokesperson of the Nigerien army, had said on state TV on Wednesday 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 are suspended. The soldiers warned against any foreign intervention, adding that they would respect Bazoum’s wellbeing.

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 fifth – after 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.

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