Niger President’s Allies Reach Out to Global Partners After Military Takeover

After nearly three weeks of asking the United States and other allies to assist restore Niger’s president to power, his supporters are making a much more urgent appeal: save his life.

Niger’s ambassador to the United States told The Associated Press that the junta that overthrew President Mohamed Bazoum has locked him and his family in the dark basement of the presidential compound, denying them access to food, electricity, and cooking gas. Bazoum’s government was the last Western-allied government in a vast swath of Africa’s Sahara and Sahel.

Mamadou Kiari Liman-Tinguiri, the ambassador and a close friend of the imprisoned leader, has declared, “They are killing him.” Since the now-63-year-old president was a young philosophy teacher, a teacher’s union leader, and a democracy advocate known for his eloquence, the two have worked together for the better part of three decades.

In one of his first interviews since mutinous troops allegedly cut off food delivery to the president, his wife, and his 20-year-old son over a week ago, Liman-Tinguiri told the Associated Press that the plan of the head of the junta was to starve him to death. “This is inhuman, and the world should not tolerate that,” the ambassador said. “It cannot be tolerated in 2023.”

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The ambassador added that Bazoum was waiting for him in the basement’s gloom. When the phone rings and he recognizes the number as belonging to a buddy or other desired contact, he picks it up. Junta members have declared the president’s ambassador to be unemployed, yet he still speaks with him daily.

Since military vehicles shut the entrance to the presidential palace on July 26 and security forces proclaimed they were taking power, Bazoum has not been seen in public. No outside investigation could reveal the president’s condition.

Repeatedly, the United States, the United Nations, and others have voiced concern over what they characterize Bazoum’s deteriorating conditions in jail, warning the junta that they will hold it responsible for Bazoum and his family’s well-being if anything were to happen to them.

Human Rights Watch also reported hearing similar claims of maltreatment from the detained president and those in his inner circle, and stated Friday that it had spoken with the president himself. There were rumors that the president of Niger was in a critical condition, but an activist who backs the country’s new military rulers said the rumors were untrue.

Without explaining how he found out about the president’s fate, Insa Garba Saidou claimed to be in touch with members of the junta. “Bazoum was lucky he was not taken anywhere,” Saidou said. “He was left in his palace with his phone. Those who did that don’t intend to hurt Bazoum.”

The situation in Niger after the recent military coup and the fate of the deposed leader have captured international attention, but this is not because such unrest is unprecedented in West Africa. Since its independence in 1960, Niger has had roughly six military takeovers. A military-installed leader of Niger was assassinated in 1999 by the same presidential guard unit that initiated the current coup.

The list of articles that follows includes some that you might find interesting or informative, and it also includes links to the news stories that go along with them:

The U.S. and the rest of the world are taking notice of Niger’s return to armed takeovers by unhappy military for two main reasons. Niger’s peaceful democratic transition of power to Bazoum is unique in the volatile Sahara and Sahel regions of Africa for a number of reasons.

With the goal of strengthening national forces capable of countering al-Qaida and Islamic State-affiliated armed groups in north and west Africa, the United States has spent close to $1 billion in recent years to support Niger’s democracy and supply aid to the country. The second major factor contributing to the coup’s success in Niger is the deployment of a U.S.-backed counterterror mission.

To combat armed jihadist groups in West Africa, the United States maintains a 1,100-strong security presence and has transformed bases in Niger’s capital and far north into its principal outposts. The Biden administration has refrained from labeling the events in Niger as a coup because of fear that doing so would force the United States to end its extensive military cooperation with the country.

Security agreements with Russia’s Wagner mercenary groups are increasing among the military or military-aligned administrations that dominate Niger’s region. The military men who overthrew Bazoum have proclaimed a new government structure but have otherwise been tight-lipped about their intentions.

This week, U.S. Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland met with members of Niger’s junta in the capital city, but she claims they were unreceptive to her requests to restore democracy in Niger. “They were quite firm about how they want to proceed, and it is not in support of the constitution of Niger,” Nuland told reporters after.

US officials told the AP that the junta warned Nuland that Bazoum would be killed if the regional ECOWAS security bloc used force to restore democracy. The ambassador dismissed that warning late in the week, saying that the junta is well on its way to killing Bazoum by isolating him and his family with just a dwindling supply of dried rice and no means to prepare it.

Links to news stories are provided below the list of articles that may be of interest or assistance to you:

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has conveyed his concern for the jailed president and his family’s safety in multiple conversations. The United States claims it has reduced aid to the regime and put military cooperation on hold. Blinken has shown strong support for ECOWAS, which has threatened military action as a last resort after the Niger junta rejected diplomatic efforts.

Blinken said in a statement on Friday that he was “particularly dismayed” by the refusal of mutinous soldiers in Niger to free Bazoum’s family as a show of goodwill. In terms of specifics, he provided none. Although Saidou, a junta adviser, disputed that the junta threatened to assassinate Bazoum, he did say that Bazoum’s death would be unavoidable if ECOWAS attacked.

“Even if the high officers of the junta won’t touch Bazoum, if one gun is shot at one of Niger’s borders in order to reinstate Bazoum, I’m sure that there will be soldiers who will put an end to his life,” he said. Bazoum claimed to Human Rights Watch that his junta-refused to treat his small son’s heart disease and that family and friends who provided food were turned away.

Those still at large in Bazoum’s camp support his call for international, regional, and American intervention. Bazoum’s captors have left him defenseless, but neither he nor the embassies have made their demands clear. Niger is a diverse and culturally rich country, and Bazoum is part of a small but significant population of nomadic Arabs.

According to Liman-Tinguiri, Bazoum has maintained the traditional value of camels among his people despite his success in politics. According to the ambassador, Bazoum is still in high spirits despite all of his hardships. The individual is “mentally very strong,” he claimed. It’s been said of him, “He’s a man of faith.”

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