Coup in Niger Brings Imminent Threat of War and Foreign Military Intervention

Protesters supporting military coup in Niger. CREDIT: YouTube

The Niger military announced Wednesday that it had ousted President Mohamed Bazoum and taken power. The coup was led by the head of the Presidential Guard, General Abdourahamane Tchiani. Bazoum, popularly elected in 2021, has seen the shine wear off as drought, corruption, economic malaise, and an intractable war with the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara combined into a perfect storm of disillusionment. He remains under detention in the capital Niamey.


Thursday, the removal of Bazoum and the installation of a new military government became formal as Tchiani announced he was the new president and the chief of the Niger Armed Forces, General Abdou Sidikou Issa, confirmed the military supported the coup.

The coup in Niger accentuates the political stability of the Sahel. It is the sixth military coup in that region in the last year-and-a-half. Previously, elected governments in  Burkina FasoSudanGuineaChad, and Mali had fallen.



Shortly after General Tchiani announced he was in charge, the African Union Peace and Security Council issued an ultimatum demanding the military return control of the Bazoum government within 15 days.

  1. Condemns in the strongest terms possible, the military coup d’état in the Republic of Niger, which resulted in the ousting of a democratically elected President, H.E. Mohamed Bazoum on 26 July 2023;
  2. Demands the military personnel to immediately and unconditionally return to their barracks and restore constitutional authority, within a maximum period of fifteen (15) days from the date of the adoption of the present Communiqué;
  3. Also demands immediate and unconditional release of H.E. President Mohamed Bazoum and all other detainees, and respect of human rights, including protection of their physical health and moral integrity and warns that Council, will take necessary action, including punitive measures against the perpetrators, should the rights of political detainees not be respected

The next day, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) imposed sanctions on Niger and issued a similar ultimatum. This is not an idle threat; ECOWAS has intervened in Ivory Coast (2003), Liberia (2003), Guinea-Bissau (2012), Mali (2013), and Gambia (2017).

Russia, Russia, Russia

One of the earliest supporters of the coup was Wagner Group PMC leader Yevgeny Prigozhin.

Despite randos in the crowd carrying Russian flags and chanting “long live Putin,”

Russia condemned the coup.


As this unfolded in Africa, the US took a more measured tone by saying US aid was in jeopardy if the elected government was not restored.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron denounced the coup as illegitimate and dangerous and threatened sanctions. He also implied France would use military force if its “interests” were threatened. Both France and the EU cut off economic aid to Niger.

Pro-coup demonstrators responded by sacking France’s embassy.

This coup is of major significance to France, which is heavily involved in stopping the spread of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara. At the beginning of the month, the government of Mali, also ruled by a military junta, evicted French troops who took up residence in Niger.

Counter Sanctions

Monday, the government of Niger accused France of conspiring with remnants of the former regime to release President Bazoum.

Once France threatened sanctions and military action while cutting financial aid, the government of Niger retaliated by halting all exports of gold and uranium to France.


Niger had been one of the most stable nations in the region. This is only the fifth coup since its independence was granted in 1960 and the first since 2010. The rapid succession of military coups in the Sahel is calling into question whether a democratic system can be sustained in that environment.

It is questionable whether this coup opens any doors for Russia. Wagner Group has troops in Mali, but most of Niger’s officer corps has been trained in the West, and there is no evidence that they’ve suddenly started looking to Russia. Russia’s muted response to the coup could be interpreted as a realization that Russia has its hands full right now and is in no position to extend itself in Africa.

China has extensive economic interests in the region. As governance descends the “man with a gun” model, it will be interesting to see how Beijing reacts given the billions of dollars it has lost on its gamble that it could buy political loyalty with loans.


The Sahel countries are critical to holding back the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, increasing its influence and further destabilizing the region. It will be much more difficult for the US and Western European nations to collaborate with military juntas than with nominally democratic civilian governments. This hints that we will see increased terrorist activities, particularly in homegrown Islamic movements like Nigeria’s Boko Haram.


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