“A Reliable Partner”
After the putsch in Niger, Berlin increases pressure on putschists. Ex-President Bazoum, extremely unpopular in the country, relied on Western powers and is considered a “reliable partner” by Germany.
NIAMEY/BERLIN (Own report) – Germany, France and the EU are increasing their pressure on the putschists and calling for the reinstatement of President Mohamed Bazoum’s government. France even threatens Niamey with military action. Bazoum has proven to be “reliable partner” for Europe, declared German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and assured him her “full support.” Iin Niger, however, Bazoum and the ruling PNDS party, are “extremely unpopular,” according to Abdourahmane Idrissa, a political scientist from Leiden and Nigerien NGOs, because the government was brutally suppressing social protests, in reliance on its close relations with Western powers. In any case, the country’s armed forces are unpopular, because they have been operating in the Sahel for nearly ten years without success. The leader of a Nigerien NGO calls on the European states to finally “take the opinions and interests of the people in the Sahel seriously.” Their refusal to do so, is contributing to the growing rejection of their military presence in Niger. The putschists have taken up this issue.
The Putschists’ Explanation
According to the general line of Western media reports on the putsch, the leader of the junta, General Abdourahamane Omar Tiani was only trying to forestall his ouster by President Mohamed Bazoum, who had wanted to remove him from his post as commander of the presidential guard. The latter is true, but does not adequately explain the whole story. Already in their first statement, the putschists in Niamey declared that they had decided “to remove the government you know” in response to the “deteriorating security situation,” and the “poor economic and social governance. In light of the Western forces’ failure in the war on jihadi insurgents, Tiani made his accusations a bit more specific. “The current security approach has not made it possible to secure our country, despite the heavy sacrifices made by Nigeriens and the appreciated support from our external partners.” This explanation for the putsch essentially resembles those given by the putschists in Mali and Burkina Faso for overthrowing their governments.
Indeed, for some time already, the people of Niger have harbored considerable animosity toward the government, led since 2011 by the Parti Nigérien pour la Démocratie et le Socialisme (PNDS), initially under President Mahamadou Issoufou, then under President Bazoum. It is important to know, that, in view of the government’s “repeated corruption scandals and sloppiness,” the population is “outraged,” explained Abdourahmane Idrissa, a political scientist at Leiden University’s African Studies Centre over the weekend. In addition, the governments over the past few years have failed to adequately react to “the jihadi threat.” The PNDS has become “extremely unpopular” within Niger’s population. Social protest has been growing since last year, combined with rising resentment toward the presence of foreign troops in the country Moussa Tchangari of the NGO Alternative Espaces Citoyens pointed out already in August 2022 that the French military had not achieved “satisfactory results” for about ten years. People are asking themselves, “why should we continue like this, if it doesn’t work after all?”
Repression of Social Protest
Observers are also reminding that the Nigerien government has increasingly repressed social protests – certain that it would be backed by the European states, for whose military forces, Niger represents the only remaining haven of retreat in the Sahel warzone. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.) Already in August 2022, the first public rally, directed against the diesel price hike organized by the newly founded M62 opposition movement was banned. On January 23, 2023, Abdoulaye Seydou, Coordinator of M62, was arrested on the trumped-up charges of having published information likely to “disrupt public order.” He was incarcerated in a high-security prison 30 km from the capital. Seydou explained shortly before his arrest that Bazoum’s government believes it can afford to do this, because the French forces serve as “protection” for the government. This is why M62 advocates a rapid withdrawal of French military forces from Niger. Pertaining to rumors spread in the West claiming that M62 is being systematically supported by Moscow, Seydou insists, “We are fighting for Niger’s sovereignty, so we are not with any foreign country partners.”
Back in August 2022, in light of the steadily growing discontent in the country, Moussa Tchangari (Alternative Espace Citoyen) warned that the western states will not be able to continue as they had before. “We see,” he explained, “that solutions are being prescribed in the name of combatting terrorism.” For example, when Mali’s government spoke out in favor of entering into a “dialogue with jihadi groups” to end the war, they were “blocked by France.” Germany also spoke out against the attempt to try to find a negotiated settlement, and relied solely on sheer force. There is still no end in sight to the fighting. The European states must accept the fact “that the security policy crisis in the Sahel is primarily a problem for the countries in the Sahel,” said Tchangari nearly a year ago. “Europe should take the opinions and the interests of the people of the Sahel seriously – which are not always being represented by our own governments.” Simply to claim “that the population is not well informed or even manipulated,” is insufficient. “This attitude has ultimately contributed to the fact that European military aid is being rejected,” explained Tchangari.
“Looking to the Future with Hope”
Western states and international organizations have reacted to the putsch with sharp criticism. Over the weekend, France suspended all support for Niger, with immediate effect. The EU has also suspended all cooperation. In a peculiar contradiction to the assessments, not only of the Nigerien opposition, but even of Nigerien non-governmental organizations such as Espaces Alternative Citoyen, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock claims that, during her visit to that country last year, she had “experienced a young democracy, whose citizens were looking to the future with hope.” Bazoum, whose government – actually was arresting its opponents and banning protests – has always “endeavored ... to fight poverty” and “to sustainably improve the living conditions of the population.” He has consistently positioned himself “as a reliable partner.” The EU has therefore supported his government “to the best of its ability.” Berlin is not interested in the fact that this is precisely why the Nigerien population has turned against the European states and why now some are taking to the streets in support of the putschists – setting fire, last week, to the despised former PNDS government headquarters.
Before the Escalation
Yesterday, Sunday, the situation escalated further. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has called on the putschists to step down within a week, otherwise, coercive measures are not ruled out. Demonstrators, who had taken to the streets against foreign military presence in Niger are protesting against the ECOWAS threats and some, in support of the putschists, have attacked the French embassy in Niamey. France is also threatening military retaliation. The situation in Niger threatens to escalate out of control. This also pertains to the Bundeswehr. german-foreign-policy.com will soon report.
 Niger : les militaires putschistes affirment avoir renversé le regime du president Bazoum. lemonde.fr 27.07.2023.
 Coup d’etat au Niger : la France suspend son aide au développement, sommet de la Cedeao dimanche. lemonde.fr 29.07.2023.
 Pierre Lepidi: Niger: « Le projet visant à renverser Mohamed Bazoum existe depuis longtemps au sein de l’armée ». lemonde.fr 28.07.2023.
 Lisa Tschörner, Moussa Tchangari: Zivilgesellschaftlicher Protest in Niger: „Europa sollte die Meinungen der Bevölkerung ernst nehmen”. swp-berlin.de 21.09.2022.
,  Sally Hayden: Arrested M62 leader wants French military forces to leave Niger. irishtimes.com 16.02.2023.
,  Lisa Tschörner, Moussa Tchangari: Zivilgesellschaftlicher Protest in Niger: „Europa sollte die Meinungen der Bevölkerung ernst nehmen”. swp-berlin.de 21.09.2022.
 Außenministerin Annalena Baerbock nach einem Telefonat mit dem nigrischen Außenminister. auswaertiges-amt.de 27.07.2023.