Niger: another military coup in the Sahel, concern for civilians

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ORTN - Télé Sahel / AFP

FIDH and its member organisation in Niger, the Association Nigérienne pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme (ANDDH), condemn the military coup in Niger. While expressing their concern for civilians, they call for the release of those arrested and the restoration of constitutional order.

Niamey, Paris, Dakar, 27 July 2023. On the morning of 26 July 2023, members of the Presidential Guard kidnapped Mohamed Bazoum, the President of the Republic of Niger elected in 2020, as well as his family and his Minister of the Interior.

On the evening of yesterday 26 July, at around 23:00 GMT, the putschists’ spokesman, Colonel Major Amadou Abdramane, speaking on behalf of the Conseil National pour la Sauvegarde de la Patrie (CNSP), issued three successive statements on national television (ORTN). He announced the end of the Bazoum regime, the suspension of “all the institutions of the 7th Republic”, the “closure of land and air borders” and the introduction of a “national curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.”.

That same day, the Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) called for the release of President Bazoum and respect for democratic principles. ECOWAS also reportedly dispatched a mediation team to Niamey, made up of several prominent figures including the President of Benin, Patrice Talon, to find a solution that respects Niger’s democratic achievements.

“We condemn this military coup, which marks the end of democracy in Niger, which saw its first peaceful changeover in 2020 between Presidents Issouffou Mahamadou and Mohamed Bazoum, whose term was due to end in 2026. We call on the CNSP to return power to civilians and to guarantee the physical and moral integrity of all those arrested”, stated Sita Adamou, President of ANDDH.

Niger is facing instability and endemic violence, particularly in its border areas near Mali, Burkina Faso and Chad. It has just experienced the fifth coup in its history, the second in 13 years.

Mohamed Bazoum was elected in the 2020-2021 presidential election under the banner of the Niger Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS-Tarayya), after holding several ministerial posts, including Interior and Public Security. He escaped an attempted putsch on the night of 30-31 March 2023, on the eve of his inauguration.

Several Sahelian countries, notably Burkina Faso, Mali and Chad, have experienced unconstitutional regime changes in recent years. In Niger, the new military regime is justifying its putsch on the grounds of “the continuing deterioration in the security situation and poor economic and social governance”. A justification reminiscent of other seditious military regimes in neighbouring countries.

“Insecurity in the Sahel must call for joint efforts by the Sahel States and their international partners, but it must in no way be used as a pretext for overthrowing democratically elected regimes,” points out Drissa Traoré, Secretary General of the FIDH. “Changes of government are part of the political life of a democracy, but they must derive their legitimacy from free and peaceful elections that fully respect the rule of law. During a coup d’état, the first victims are always the same: the most vulnerable, women and children. We are extremely concerned and call for a peaceful resolution to this crisis”, he added.

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