Reports from the Niger Republic are pointing to a coup attempt as soldiers of the presidential guard on Wednesday morning were reported to have surrounded and restricted access to the Presidential palace.
Reuters reports that the ministries next to the palace have also been blocked off with workers not able to get into their offices. Though the whereabouts of President Mohamed Bazoum are unknown, there are reports he is safe inside the palace and that are discussions going on between the mutineers and the president’s team.
However, many parts of Niamey, Niger’s capital, appear calm.
In response to the events in the land-locked West African country, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has condemned the coup attempt.
The sub-regional body, in a statement on Wednesday, said it received the news of the attempted coup with shock and consternation and the international community will hold everybody involved in the plot responsible for the security and safety of President Bazoum, his family, members of the government and the general public.
“ECOWAS condemns in the strongest terms the attempt to seize power by force and calls on the coup plotters to free the democratically- elected President of the Republic immediately and without any condition,” the statement said.
President Bola Tinubu, who is the Chairperson of ECOWAS, also condemned the coup attempt, just as former Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari called the coup attempt “utterly naïve, despicable, and unacceptable”.
Tinubu, in a statement, said the leadership of ECOWAS will not welcome any situation that will disrupt the democratically-elected government of Niger Republic.
“Information filtering in from the Republic of Niger indicates some unpleasant developments around the country’s highest political leadership.
“It should be quite clear to all players in the Republic of Niger that the leadership of the ECOWAS Region and all lovers of democracy around the world will not tolerate any situation that incapacitates the democratically-elected government of the country.
“The ECOWAS leadership will not accept any action that impedes the smooth functioning of legitimate authority in Niger or any part of West Africa.
“I wish to say that we are closely monitoring the situation and developments in Niger and we will do everything within our powers to ensure democracy is firmly planted, nurtured, well rooted and thrives in our region.
“I am in close consultation with other leaders in our region, and we shall protect our hard-earned democracy in line with the universally acceptable principle of constitutionalism.
“As the Chairperson of ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, I state without equivocation that Nigeria stands firmly with the elected government in Niger and equally conveys the absolute resolve of leaders in our sub-region that we shall not waiver or flinch on our stand to defend and preserve constitutional order,” Tinubu said.
On his part, Buhari urged African leaders to “remain united against coups under whatever guise or form”, and warned “coup plotters to learn from history on the consequences of instability caused by violent takeover of governments”.
Niger has been a very unstable country with four coups since its independence from France in 1960. There was also a failed coup attempt in Niger in March 2021, when a military unit tried to seize the presidential palace, days before Bazoum was due to be sworn in.