Western anxiety surrounding the coup is heightened by Niger significant role as the world’s seventh-largest producer of uranium, a radioactive metal crucial for nuclear energy and cancer treatment.
The military junta that seized power in Niger continues its defiance of international appeals to restore democratic governance, as it detains three more senior politicians from the ousted government. The situation has sparked turmoil, not only on the streets but also in the markets, leading to the cancellation of Niger’s planned bond issuance.
As the news of the coup spreads, regional central banks have taken action, with Niger’s planned 30 billion CFA bond issuance being cancelled in the West African regional debt market due to sanctions. The African Union, the U.N., the European Union, and other global powers have expressed strong condemnation over the overthrow of elected president Mohamed Bazoum, marking the seventh military takeover in West and Central Africa in less than three years.
The implications of the coup extend beyond Niger’s borders, raising concerns for the security of the Sahel region. The presence of troops from the United States, France, and other Western nations in Niger, collaborating with the government to combat militant forces linked to Islamic State and al Qaeda, adds to the sense of urgency for international action.
The detained senior politicians include the ousted government’s mines minister, the head of the ruling party, and the oil minister, Mahamane Sani Mahamadou, who is also the son of former president Issoufou Mahamadou. Prior to these arrests, the interior minister, transport minister, and a deputy had already been taken into custody. The Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS-Tarayya) labels the junta leaders as “repressive and dictatorial” and calls on citizens to unite in safeguarding democracy.
Efforts to mediate between the coup leaders and the ousted government have been initiated by Chadian President Mahamat Idriss Deby, who arrived in Niger recently. Images of Mohamed Bazoum, appearing unharmed and smiling, were posted by President Deby, indicating attempts at finding a peaceful resolution to the crisis.
In response to the coup, West African regional bloc ECOWAS has imposed sanctions on Niger, halting all financial transactions and freezing national assets. The bloc also considers the option of authorizing force to reinstate President Bazoum, who was confined to his palace by members of his guard during the coup.
Niger’s economic vulnerability is further exposed by the cancellation of the bond issuance, as it heavily relies on external aid and financing. The junta accuses France of planning an operation to free Bazoum, an allegation not confirmed or denied by the French Foreign Ministry, which recognizes Bazoum as the legitimate authority in Niger and prioritizes protecting its citizens and interests in the country.
The coup in Niger follows a trend of military takeovers in neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso over the past two years, driven partly by anti-French sentiment. The situation has prompted both countries to forge closer ties with Russia. Recently, supporters of the junta expressed their discontent by burning French flags and attacking the French embassy in Niger’s capital Niamey, resulting in police intervention with tear gas.
The coup leaders, led by General Abdourahamane Tiani, the former presidential guard chief, justify their actions by citing poor governance and dissatisfaction with President Bazoum’s handling of the Islamist threat. Russia’s Wagner mercenary group, headed by Yevgeny Prigozhin, welcomed the coup and offered support to restore order.
As the situation remains uncertain, Germany’s foreign ministry acknowledges the potential for the coup to fail. In response to the evolving crisis, the Kremlin expresses serious concern and calls for a swift return to constitutional order in Niger. The future of the country hangs in the balance, with global eyes fixed on how events will unfold in the coming days.