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On July 26, the Nigerien presidential guard led by Abdourahmane Tchiani (also known as Omar Tchiani) staged a coup d’état and overthrew the government of President Mohamed Bazoun. The Constitution of the 7th Republic was dissolved, and its institutions were replaced by the Conseil national pour la sauvegarde de la patrie (CNSP). 

According to the military junta, the motives behind the putsch were “the continuing deterioration of the security situation” and President Bazoum’s “poor economic and social governance”, claims which the military believed justify the overthrow of the democratically-elected government.

A putsch that fancies itself a popular revolution 

Since 2018, Niger has indeed been plagued by an increase in jihadist activity, and the year 2021, coinciding with Bazoum’s inauguration, marks the most violent year in terms of casualties. The Boko Haram organization is active in the south-east of the country, while groups linked to the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda are active in the south-west.

However, while the number of incidents is rising in 2022, the lethality of attacks is steadily declining, with the number of attack-related deaths for the same year having fallen drastically. In addition, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), a US-based crisis monitoring group, in the first six months of 2023, violent incidents in Niger declined by almost 40% compared to the previous six months. More specifically, the number of attacks on civilians is said to have halved, a fact attributable, according to ACLED, to President Bazoum’s measures.

Many international players fear that this move will facilitate the sprawling development of terrorism in the region. Niger is seen by Western powers as a strategic bulwark against these organizations, as well as against Russian influences, reflected in the presence of the Wagner group in the region1. These forces are particularly prevalent in neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso, which were themselves subject to coups d’état in 2021 and 2022 and have since seen the rate of violence on their territories soar. However, while pro-democracy groups gathered to protest against the military government’s seizure of power, a large popular wave of support for the putschists marched through the streets of Niamey in the days following the coup, accompanied by the military regime of Mali and Burkina Faso, while the Niger army and national guard rallied behind the CNSP. The latter also accused France of violating Niger’s airspace on Wednesday by taking off a military aircraft from Chad and “releasing terrorists”.

Translation of the legend - Blue and black: Niger and its supports Pink: countries preparing a military intervention under ECOWAS’ name Orange: ECOWAS countries approving sanctions taken against Niger Countries (written in black, from top-left corner to bottom-right) - Burkina Faso, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo and Benin

Map of the support and opponents of the coup in Niger, by “Jeune Afrique” in Le Parisien2

Chronic humanitarian crisis on a post-colonial canvas

The humanitarian situation in Niger is indeed endemically alarming: according to the World Bank, by 2021, over 10 million people will be living in extreme poverty, representing around 40% of the population. Lack of infrastructure and access to basic services, including water and food, are the main reasons for the discontent of the Niger population. Despite the provision of international aid, particularly from France, strong anti-Western feelings have developed, resulting in the blocking of a French army convoy in 2021 and demonstrations against the presence of Operation Barkhane forces in 2022. Nigerians still perceive France as an imperialist power — a resentment now instrumentalized by the junta —, which can be explained by the fact that France placed the country under the aegis of its colonial empire throughout the first half of the 20th century. The remnants of this empire continue to this day in the form of neocolonial policies, such as the use of the CFA franc in Niger, a currency pegged to the euro and guaranteed by the French Treasury, or the exploitation of Niger’s uranium resources by the French company Areva. 

The country’s humanitarian crisis has been exacerbated by a late rainy season and long periods of alternating drought and flooding due to climate change. Action Against Hunger predicts that cases of child malnutrition will increase considerably until the end of August, and estimates that around four million people are in need of urgent humanitarian aid. In addition to health issues, over 700,000 people are forcibly displaced within the country, including some 400,000 internally displaced people, 250,000 refugees and 50,000 asylum seekers, facing access constraints and risks of statelessness. The closure of 987 schools in Niger, affecting almost 80,000 children, particularly in the Tillaberi region, is one of the main issues facing the country. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs also warns of the sexual and gender-based violence faced by women and girls.

The cost of the coup: internal turmoil and external reaction as a double burden for the Nigeriens

The coup is likely to exacerbate these problems, as one of the immediate consequences of the putsch is an increase in the price of food, medicines, petrol and electricity, as reported by Reuters. This is due to the pressure of international sanctions imposed in response to the coup: the West African economic bloc ECOWAS has cut trade links and closed its borders to Niger with the support of the African Union’s community, while the European Union and France have suspended their financial aid – a decision with far-reaching consequences given that foreign assistance accounts for 40% of Niger’s national budget. Moreover, the subsequent political destabilization, far from acting as a deterrent, has on the contrary enabled the development of non-state armed groups, who remain active and take advantage of the situation to continue looting and destroying villages in fragile areas. The coup is also accompanied by human rights violations directly perpetrated by the new military government: the closure of borders and the introduction of a curfew restrict the freedom of movement of Nigeriens, while the sequestration of Bazoum, his family and other political leaders, allegedly isolated without water nor electricity, violates all the prisoners’ rights and fundamental freedoms, prompting human rights defenders, non-governmental organizations and international authority figures such as António Guterres to demand their release.

Conclusion: intervention or negotiation, what about the future of democracy in Niger?

Finally, the seizure of power by force flouts the Niger people’s right to self-determination, with the new regime violating the concepts of the Rule of Law and democracy. The threat of intervention by ECOWAS, some of whose members, including the Ivory Coast’s President Alassane Ouattara, wish to deploy their “standby force” to restore President Bazoum to power, raises the question of the legitimacy and durability of the use of force in the establishment of a democratic regime. The United Nations Human Rights Officer, Volker Türk, calls on the military authorities to provide a “precise timetable for the return to democratic civilian rule and to uphold the right of all Nigeriens to elect their leaders” whilst the self-proclaimed government continues its installation in power with the recent appointment of Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine as Prime Minister. 

This decision is not without significance, given that the new Prime Minister, who also happens to be the African Development Bank’s representative in Chad, Ivory Coast and Gabon and who was a Finance Minister, lost his post in a military coup in 2010. He is also a member of MNSD-Nassara, President Tandja’s former single party, which offered Bazoum its support in the 2021 presidential elections. 

The regional answer to the current situation, which seems less and less likely to involve the use of force given the opposition of a majority of the members of the ECOWAS parliament to an intervention, will be decisive for the future of human rights in Niger. It remains to be judged whether its outcome will really save the government by the people for the people.


AKA, K. (2023). Niger : qui est Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine, le nouveau Premier ministre ?. [online] 8 Aug. 2023. Available at: [Accessed 14/08/2023].

Amnesty. (2023). Niger : les nouvelles autorités doivent mettre fin aux arrestations et détentions arbitraires. [online] 1 Aug. Available at: [Accessed 31 Jul. 2023].

Conseil de Paix et de Sécurité de l’Union Africaine. (2023). Communique de la 1164e réunion du CPS tenue le 28 juillet 2023 sur la situation en République du Niger. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 Jul. 2023].

DEMUNYCK, M. and BÖHM, M. (2023) . Unravelling the Niger coup and its implications for violent extremism in the Sahel. [online] 4 Aug. Available at: [Accessed 04 Aug. 2023].

Fédération Internationale pour les Droits Humains. (2023). Niger : un énième coup d’état au Sahel, inquiétude pour les [online] 27 Jul. Available at: [Accessed 31 Jul. 2023].

Human Rights Watch (2023). Niger : les droits menacés par le coup d’état militaire. [online] 27 Jul. Available at : [Accessed 31 Jul. 2023].

Le Parisien. (2023). Crise au Niger : putschistes, soutiens, Cédéao… quelles sont les forces militaires en présence ? [online] 11 Aug. Available at: [Accessed 11 Aug. 2023].

MCALLISTER, E. (2023) . Niger coup leaders blamed insecurity ; conflict data paints a different picture. [online] 3 Aug. Available at: [Accessed 03 Aug. 2023].

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. (2023). Commentaire du Haut Commissaire des Nations unies aux droits de l’homme, Volker Türk, sur la prise de pouvoir militaire au Niger. [online] 27 Jul. Available at: [Accessed 03 Aug. 2023].

World Health Organization. (2023) Weekly bulletin and other emergencies : Week 30:24-30 July 2023. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Jul. 2023].

United Nations. (2023). Niger: M. Guterres condamne le changement anticonstitutionnel de gouvernement et appelle à la libération du Président Bazoum avec effet immédiat et sans condition préalable. [online] Available at: [Accessed 26 Jul. 2023].


We thank Marie Chapot, Léa Grandemange and Vincent Lefebvre for their proofreading.

To quote the article:

DE LA PENA, P. & MORES, S. (2023). Putsch in Niger: killing the government by the People for the sake of the People? Generation for Rights Over the World. [online] Aug. 2023.

1 The Wagner group is a Russian paramilitary group active in mercenarism, disinformation and the exploitation of natural resources, which offers its paramilitary activities in exchange for resources and financial compensation. In Mali, following two coups d’état and the failure of Operation Barkhane, the French anti-terrorist force cooperating with the Malian army withdrew, leaving the mercenaries in their place. However, the mercenaries have been accused of human rights violations, particularly against civilians, who have been subjected to numerous abuses. UN experts are currently calling for an investigation into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Wagner group in Mali. See:
2 Translation of the legend – 
Blue and black: Niger and its supports
Pink: countries preparing a military intervention under ECOWAS’ name
Orange: ECOWAS countries approving sanctions taken against Niger
Countries (written in black, from top-left corner to bottom-right) – 
Burkina Faso, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo and Benin

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