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European Union, African Union Escalate Pressure On Niger’s Coup Leaders

The European Union has announced the suspension of financial support and cooperation on security with Niger in response to the recent military coup. The coup led by General Abdourahamane Tchiani resulted in the detention of President Mohamed Bazoum. The EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, stated that all cooperation actions related to security will be suspended indefinitely, and budget support will cease immediately.

The EU had previously allocated 503 million euros for governance, education, and sustainable growth in Niger over the 2021-2024 period. Despite the coup, Borrell reaffirmed President Bazoum as the legitimate leader and demanded his immediate release, holding the coup leaders accountable for the safety of the president and his family. The EU expressed its readiness to support future decisions taken by West Africa’s regional bloc, including the imposition of sanctions.

Similarly, the United States’ Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, offered his unwavering support to President Bazoum and warned that hundreds of millions of dollars of assistance could be at risk if democratic norms were not restored. Blinken praised Bazoum’s efforts in promoting security in Niger and the broader West Africa region. He emphasized that US support would depend on Niger’s adherence to democratic governance, respect for the rule of law, and human rights.

The African Union also condemned the military coup and demanded that the military return to their barracks and restore constitutional authority within 15 days. The AU expressed deep concern over the alarming resurgence of military coups in Africa.

General Tchiani, who declared himself the head of a transitional government, had previously led resistance to a failed coup in March 2021. Niger, a landlocked country bordering several African nations, is considered an important partner for addressing security threats in the region by the US and France. It is the largest recipient of US military assistance in West Africa and hosts foreign troops, mainly from the US and France.

READ ALSO : List Of Coups Attempts In Africa Since 2015

General Tchiani: Shadowy Army Veteran Who Seized Power In Niger

Tchiani, 59, has shunned the limelight despite a stellar military career which saw him lead the elite 700-member unit from 2011 up until now.

This video frame grab image obtained by AFP from ORTN – Télé Sahel on July 28, 2023 shows General Abdourahamane Tchiani, Niger’s new strongman, speaking on national television and reads a statement as “President of the National Council for the Safeguarding of the Fatherland”, after the ouster of President-elect Mohamed Bazoum. (Photo by ORTN – Télé Sahel / AFP)

General Abdourahamane Tchiani, the chief of Niger’s powerful presidential guard who took power after a military coup, is an army veteran who has foiled similar uprisings in the restive West African nation.

Tchiani, 59, has shunned the limelight despite a stellar military career which saw him lead the elite 700-member unit from 2011 up until now.

“He is not well known outside military circles. He is a man in the background, powerful,” said Ibrahim Yahaya Ibrahim, a researcher with the International Crisis Group think tank.

On Friday, Tchiani declared himself leader after staging a takeover that began on Wednesday when his presidential guards seized President Mohamed Bazoum and sequestered him in the presidential palace.

Niger is an extremely poor nation but with vast uranium deposits. It has suffered four coups since independence from France in 1960 and several other failed putsch attempts and is currently in the throes of jihadist violence like its neighbours.

Bazoum — a key ally of the West in fighting militancy in sub-Saharan Africa — was the first elected leader to succeed another since independence.

Niger’s President Mohamed Bazoum presents his national statement as part of the World Leaders’ Summit of the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland on November 1, 2021. Niger President Mohamed Bazoum is being detained by members of the Presidential Guard, who have been given an “ultimatum” by the army, a source close to Bazoum said on July 23, 2023.

Tchiani is a staunch ally of former president Mahamadou Issoufou, Bazoum’s predecessor, who appointed him head of the presidential guards in 2011.

Bazoum kept him in the job after taking over from Issoufou, who served two terms, but relations between them deteriorated in the past months, according to sources close to Bazoum.

They told AFP that Bazoum had been considering replacing Tchiani as the head of the presidential guard.

Tchiani meanwhile began shunning “official ceremonies and activities” of the president and sent his deputy Colonel Ibroh Amadou Bacharou, also a member of the new junta, to represent him, a source close to Bazoum said.

‘Brave’ And ‘Popular’

Another source close to the deposed leader said Tchiani’s replacement was due to be decided at a cabinet meeting this month.

Tchiani is originally from Filingue, an arid zone about 200 kilometres (125 miles) northwest of the capital Niamey.

He has served in missions by the United Nations and West African regional bloc ECOWAS in Ivory Coast as well as in Sudan.

Filingue lies in the volatile Tillaberi region which has been repeatedly attacked for nearly eight years by insurgents linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group as well as jihadists from neighboring countries

The vast area, roughly the size of South Korea, has around 150,000 internally displaced people, according to the United Nations.

Tchiani’s critics say he is a controversial figure but those close to him describe him as “brave” and “popular”.

“How could he have led his men in the putsch if they didn’t have confidence in him?” said Issa Abdou, a figure in civil society.

Supporters of the Nigerien defence and security forces gather during a demonstration outside the national assembly in Niamey on July 27, 2023. The head of Niger’s armed forces on July 27, 2023 said he endorsed a declaration by troops who overnight announced they had taken power after detaining the country’s elected president, Mohamed Bazoum.

A government official said Tchiani, under Issoufou’s orders, had “transformed the presidential guard into a powerful machine equipped with sophisticated weapons”.

Tchiani has in the past quashed several coup bids, notably in 2021 and 2022.

“General Tiani is an officer who has proven himself on the ground,” said former soldier Amadou Bounty Diallo.

The new junta comprises senior officers, including Salifou Mody, the former chief of staff of the armed forces who was sacked in April.

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