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Why has a coup in Niger rattled global powers?

A coup in the one of the world's poorest countries which is also the seventh-largest producer of uranium, may open the doors to a Al-Qaeda and ISIS stronghold that runs amok in neighbouring regions and a reliance on Russia as US and allies impose sanctions

Published: Aug 8, 2023 01:35:06 PM IST
Updated: Aug 8, 2023 02:10:28 PM IST

Why has a coup in Niger rattled global powers?Image: AFP
Tens of thousands of coup supporters, some draped in Russian flags, gather at a stadium in Niger’s capital Niamey to cheer on the generals—known as the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland [CNSP]—who seized power in a military coup, in Niger, on August 6, 2023. Niger’s coup leaders have closed the country’s airspace after rejecting an ultimatum from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to reinstate deposed President Mohamed Bazoum or risk military intervention.

Why has a coup in Niger rattled global powers?Image: Balima Boureima/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

General Abdourahmane Tchiani and other army commanders post for a photograph at a meeting in Niger’s capital Niamey on July 28, 2023. Gen Tchiani, head of Niger’s Presidential Guard since 2011, appeared on national television to declare himself the new leader of Niger, after his guards surrounded the presidential palace in a coup. This is the seventh coup in Western and Central Africa since 2020.

 Why has a coup in Niger rattled global powers?Image: Ludovic MARIN / AFP

Niger's now deposed President Mohamed Bazoum is seen welcomed by French President Emmanuel Macron to a working lunch at the Elysee Presidential Palace earlier this year in Paris on February 16, 2023. Mohamed Bazoum was elected president two years ago in the nation’s first peaceful, democratic transfer of power since its independence from France in 1960. Bazoum’s administration has made Niger a key Western partner in the fight against Islamic extremism in Africa’s Sahel region.

Why has a coup in Niger rattled global powers?Image: Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A file photo of Burkina Faso’s new coup leader Captain Ibrahim Traore at a news conference in the capital city of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, October 2, 2022. Niger’s neighbours Burkina Faso and Mali have had four coups since 2020, and both the countries are being overrun by extremists linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group. Mercenaries from the Wagner group are also deployed in these countries.

Why has a coup in Niger rattled global powers?Image: Souleymane Ag Anara / AFP

A file photo of fighters from a local armed group Gatia patrolling around the town of Menaka, which is considered as the epicentre of Islamic State presence in the Sahel region. The coup in Niger is a major blow to the US and other allies who saw Niger and President Bazoum as the last major counterterrorism partner in the Sahel region, a vast area south of the Sahara Desert where fighters linked to Al-Qaeda and Islamic State have been expanding their operations, threatening coastal states such as Benin, Ghana and Togo.

Why has a coup in Niger rattled global powers?Image: Alain Jocard / AFP

French soldiers remove a laser-guided bomb from a Reaper drone after a mission at the French BAP air base in Niamey, Niger, on May 14, 2023. The US, France and European countries have poured hundreds of millions of dollars of military assistance into Niger. France has 1,500 soldiers in the country, though their fate is now in question. Washington has 1,100 US military personnel also in Niger, where they operate an important drone base in the city of Agadez. The European Union intensified pressure on Niger’s coup leaders by suspending security cooperation with the country.
 Why has a coup in Niger rattled global powers?Image: Joe Penney / Reuters

A file photo of Uranium ore heap leached with sulfuric acid at Areva's Somair mine in Arlit, Niger. Niger’s coup leaders have accused Niger’s former colonial ruler France of plotting a military intervention to reinstate President Bazoum—which France has denied. The coup leaders are also accusing France of exploiting Niger for uranium for over six decades. Niger is the seventh-largest producer of uranium in the world.

Why has a coup in Niger rattled global powers? Image: David Zorrakino/Europa Press via Getty Images

A group of veiled women and girls walking in the village of Ganguel, Sokoto, in Niger on January 11, 2023. Landlocked Niger is one of the world's poorest nations, ranking 189th among 191 countries in the 2022 United Nations Human Development Index. 80 percent of Niger’s land area is covered by the Sahara desert. More than 40 percent of Niger’s budget comes from aid. Spain had recently announced it would triple the funds it allocates as cooperation aid to Niger, mainly focused on promoting food security and rural development, as well as health and gender equality. With France and the US having suspended aid, the military will have to look elsewhere for economic sustenance, possibly opening the door for Russia.

Why has a coup in Niger rattled global powers?Image: Scott Peterson/Getty Images

A file photo of a Niger local with his donkey in a shimmering desert haze against the backdrop of large hangars of a US military base in Agadez, Niger. Coup leaders have reportedly sought help from Wagner, Russia's military group, which has become an influential force in Mali since the coup there in 2021, and has had a long-standing presence in the Central African Republic and Libya.

The recently imposed sanctions on Niger and an impending war will only bring more hardship to the locals who are already battling the effects of climate change, poverty, and attacks from armed groups.