Niger coup leader declares himself president
Niger’s presidential guard chief, General Abdourahamane Tiani, who masterminded the overthrow of President Mohamed Bazoum this week, has declared himself the new national leader.
Abdourahamane, also known as Omar Tchiani, appeared on the state TV channel Tele Sahel on Friday, calling himself president of the newly formed military council, the National Council for Safeguarding the Homeland, and claiming that Wednesday's coup was to protect national security.
President Bazoum was detained early on Wednesday by members of his security detail, with top military officials later announcing he had been removed from power and all state institutions suspended.
Niamey is considered an ally of the West in tackling jihadist insurgencies in the Sahel region, with troops from France and the US based there.
The unrest has sparked international condemnation, with French President Emmanuel Macron joining the West African regional bloc (ECOWAS) in demanding that the coup leaders release Bazoum.
Macron described Bazoum as a “courageous leader who is making the reforms and investments that his country needs,” adding that Paris will support regional powers in imposing sanctions on the coup plotters.
Tchiani, who had led the presidential guard since 2011, justified his actions on Thursday as a reaction to the “deteriorating security situation.” He argued that the government had failed to give the people of Niger “a glimpse of a real way out of the crisis.”
“The harsh reality of insecurity in Niger, experienced by our defense forces and hardworking populations, with its toll of deaths, displacement, humiliation, and frustration, reminds us on a daily basis of this stark reality,” Tchiani said.
He also criticized the lack of collaboration with the Mali and Burkina Faso juntas in fighting insurgencies in the region.
Bazoum was elected in Niger’s first democratic transition of power in 2021, after years of political turmoil. The former French colony has undergone five power grabs since gaining independence in 1960.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov criticized the coup on Thursday as an “anti-constitutional act,” joining US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in condemning the “unacceptable” change of power.