Nigerian President Mohamed Bazoum was reported to be under detainment by disgruntled members of the elite Presidential Guard on Wednesday. In response to this situation, the army issued an “ultimatum” to the guards. The West African bloc ECOWAS condemned the incident, referring to it as an “attempted coup,” and demanded the immediate and unconditional release of President Bazoum.
A close ally of France, President Bazoum was democratically elected in 2021 to lead a nation grappling with poverty and a history of instability. The incident occurred on Wednesday morning when members of the Presidential Guard blocked access to the president’s residence and offices. Despite attempts at negotiation, the guards refused to release the president.
In a statement released from Nigeria, ECOWAS condemned the “attempted coup d’Etat” against the democratically-elected leader. The bloc and the international community expressed their concern for the safety of President Bazoum, his family, members of the government, and the public, holding those involved accountable for their well-being.
The reasons behind the guards’ actions have not been disclosed. The presidential complex in Niamey was blocked off, but there were no reports of unusual military deployment or gunfire in the area, with traffic appearing normal.
Niger has a history of coup attempts, including one just days before President Bazoum’s inauguration in April 2021. The nation’s last coup took place in February 2010, overthrowing then-President Mamadou Tandja.
The ongoing political instability has also resulted in arrests of individuals allegedly involved in coup attempts, with some facing significant prison sentences. The country continues to struggle with jihadist campaigns in different regions, causing a humanitarian crisis and impacting the economy.
Niger receives military support and training from the United States and France, with the latter using the country as a hub for its anti-jihadist operations in the Sahel region.