On national television, soldiers in the Republic of Niger in West Africa announced a coup.
They claimed to have locked the country’s borders, repealed the constitution, and suspended all institutions.
Since early on Wednesday, soldiers from the presidential guard have been keeping Niger President Mohamed Bazoum in custody.
In a phone call, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken assured him of Washington’s “unwavering support.”
Also claiming to have spoken with the president, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres extended the UN’s complete support.
Mr. Bazoum is a crucial ally of the West in the conflict with Islamist militancy in West Africa. Recent Islamist uprisings have resulted in coups in two neighbouring nations, Mali and Burkina Faso.
The new military commanders in both nations are at odds with France, the old colonial power that had dominated Niger as well.
Another African Country Declares Coup on National TV
Unknown to the public, Mr. Bazoum remarked in a tweet on Thursday morning that the “hard-won gains will be safeguarded” and that Nigerians who love democracy will take care of them.
Col. Maj. Amadou Abdramane made the following statement on television on Wednesday: “We, the defence and security forces… have decided to put an end to the dictatorship, you know.
This comes after weak economic and social governance and the security situation’s ongoing worsening.
The heads of the ministries would handle day-to-day operations, he added, adding that all of the nation’s institutions had been halted.
He said, “All external partners are requested not to interfere.” “Until the situation has stabilised, land and air borders are closed.”
He stated that, until further notice, a nighttime curfew would be in place from 22:00 to 5:00 local time.
The National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP), according to Col. Maj. Abdramane, was represented by the soldiers.
Mr. Blinken demanded the release of President Bazoum following the soldiers’ television broadcast.
“What it clearly constitutes,” he said at a news conference in New Zealand, “is an attempt to seize power by force and to disrupt the constitution.”
Russian Wagner mercenaries with heavy weapons are aiding the military administration in Mali’s struggle against jihadist terrorists there. The upheaval in Niger adds to Western concerns about Wagner’s activities and the volatility of the Sahel area.
President Vladimir Putin is gathering African leaders in St. Petersburg on Thursday in an effort to increase Russian influence on that continent.
The attempt to take power in Niger through force is condemned in the strongest terms, according to the West African economic bloc Ecowas.
Patrice Talon, the president of Benin, has arrived in the nation’s capital, Niamey, on a mediation mission on behalf of Ecowas.
The ideal would be for everything to be done in peace and harmony, but Mr. Talon stated that “all means” would be utilised, if necessary, to restore constitutional order in Niger.
Crowds in Niamey flocked to the streets earlier on Wednesday to show their support for Mr. Bazoum. A BBC reporter also observed heavily armed, presidentially supported soldiers stationed close to the public broadcaster.
Although the soldiers supporting the coup fired rounds to quell the protestors, the city was largely quiet.
Two Islamist insurgencies are plaguing Niger: one in the south-west that originated in Mali in 2015, and the other in the south-east that is being led by jihadists headquartered in northeastern Nigeria.
The nation is home to militant organisations linked to both al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.
The democratically elected president of Bazoum, who took office in 2021, is a close ally of France and other Western countries.
Since Niger gained independence from France in 1960, there have been four coups and several coup attempts.