Mutinous soldiers claimed to have overthrown Niger’s democratically elected president, announcing on state television late Wednesday that they have put an end to the government over the African country’s deteriorating security.
The soldiers said all institutions had been suspended and security forces were managing the situation. The mutineers urged external partners not to interfere.
The announcement came after a day of uncertainty as members of Niger’s presidential guard surrounded the presidential palace and detained President Mohamed Bazoum. There was no immediate indication of whether the mutiny was supported by other parts of the military. It was unclear where the president was at the time of the announcement or if he had resigned.
“This is as a result of the continuing degradation of the security situation, the bad economic and social governance,” air force Col. Major Amadou Abdramane said on the video. Seated at a table in front of nine other officers, he said aerial and land borders were closed and a curfew was imposed until the situation stabilized.
The group, which is calling itself National Council for the Safeguarding of the Country, said it remained committed to its engagements with the international and national community.
Earlier Wednesday, a tweet from the account of Niger’s presidency reported that members of the elite guard unit engaged in an “anti-Republican demonstration” and unsuccessfully tried to obtain support from other security forces. It said Bazoum and his family were doing well but that Niger’s army and national guard “are ready to attack” if those involved in the action did not back down.
The commissions of the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States described the events as an effort to unseat Bazoum, who was elected president two years ago in the nation’s first peaceful, democratic transfer of power since its independence from France in 1960.
Before the announcement, hundreds of people took to the streets of the capital, Niamey, and chanted “No coup d’etat” while marching in support of the president. Multiple rounds of gunfire that appeared to come from the presidential palace dispersed the demonstrators and sent people scrambling for cover.
The international community strongly condemned the attempted seizure of power.