Niger's President: 'I Write This as a Hostage'

Mohamed Bazoum warns of 'devastating consequences' if coup isn't quashed
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 4, 2023 6:28 AM CDT
Niger's Overthrown President: 'I Write This as a Hostage'
Supporters of Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum demonstrate in his support in Niamey, Niger, Wednesday, July 26, 2023.   (AP Photo/Sam Mednick)

The overthrown president of Niger, detained by soldiers at the presidential palace in Niamey for the past week, is speaking out via the Washington Post. "I write this as a hostage"—"one of hundreds of citizens who have been arbitrarily and illegally imprisoned," reads the message from Mohamed Bazoum, who argues the July 26 coup by a military junta "has no justification whatsoever" and could have "devastating consequences for our country, our region, and the entire world." The junta claimed power, citing a security crisis and poor economic and social policies. According to Bazoum, "they allege that our war against jihadist terrorists is failing and that my economic and social governance, including partnerships with the United States and Europe, has hurt our country."

But since Bazoum's 2021 election, the security situation "has improved dramatically—facilitated by the very partnerships the junta opposes," he writes. Indeed, "Niger is now the safest it has been in the past 15 years" and "stands as the last bastion of respect for human rights amid the authoritarian movements that have overtaken some of our neighbors." There is now a six-nation "coup belt" across the African continent. The military rulers of Burkina Faso and Mali have embraced Russia, "employ[ing] criminal Russian mercenaries such as the Wagner Group at the expense of their people's rights and dignity," Bazoum writes, warning Niger could follow suit. On Wednesday, one of the Nigerien coup leaders visited Mali, prompting concerns about a potential alliance, CNN reports.

"With an open invitation from the coup plotters and their regional allies, the entire central Sahel region could fall to Russian influence via the Wagner Group," writes Bazoum. At the same time, Boko Haram and other terrorist groups are likely to take advantage of the instability. He calls on the international community to "help us restore our constitutional order," adding, "Nigerien people will never forget your support." The US has joined the African and European Unions and the Economic Community of West African States in calling for an end to the coup. But its leaders have so far refused to give up power. Bazoum notes Niger, the world's third poorest country, is therefore set to lose 40% of its national budget, which comes from foreign aid. (ECOWAS has threatened the use of force.)

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