“In Niger, President Bazoum has been hostage to the junta for nine months, the impasse can no longer continue”

The coup d'état of July 26, 2023 in Niger, with the sequestration of President Mohamed Bazoum and his wife, interrupted a democratic sequence which could undoubtedly be improved, but worked well by international standards and better than ever before in the recent history of the country

“In Niger, President Bazoum has been hostage to the junta for nine months, the impasse can no longer continue”

The coup d'état of July 26, 2023 in Niger, with the sequestration of President Mohamed Bazoum and his wife, interrupted a democratic sequence which could undoubtedly be improved, but worked well by international standards and better than ever before in the recent history of the country. The regime respected fundamental freedoms, notably freedom of expression and habeas corpus, which have now disappeared. Development programs were producing tangible results.

The distribution of a recent photo of former President Mahamadou Issoufou coming to greet the head of the ruling junta, adding to the remarks of the French Ambassador Sylvian Itté before the French National Assembly, fuels suspicions of a large part of the population on their responsibilities in the coup d'état.

This image discredits the political elites in the eyes of Nigeriens. For the Salafist movement, it is an illustration of the immorality of an impious political class and a further demonstration that the democracy it boasts is nothing but an imposture fundamentally incompatible with our most sacred values.

The dominant idea since the 1991 national conference, that coups d'état sanction the dysfunctions of democracy, not its principle, no longer has a consensus, not even among students, formerly spearheads of democratic struggles. Those who, like President Bazoum, believe in the virtues of democracy must organize to defend it, otherwise it will disappear from our country for a long time. The election of Bassirou Diomaye Faye in Senegal, which shows that change is possible through the ballot box when the people really want it, should reassure those who dream of liberation.

An outdated sovereignist rhetoric

For the moment, two attitudes are emerging from the communication of the military in power in Niger: the denial of the reality of an economic situation, which is going from bad to worse, with financial operations of the State in an impasse, as evidenced by payment defaults particularly to the IMF; and, on the other hand, the promotion of “sad passions”, fueled by outdated sovereignist rhetoric, which is intended to be a Sahelian popularization of decolonial discourse.

This posture shows that the junta is indifferent to the fate of the populations and has no development project for the country. We do not see how Russia, with a GDP volume of the order of that of Texas, will offer our country more opportunities than our dismissed European and American partners. Exiting the Community of West African States (ECOWAS) will further hamper Niger's integration into world trade by further complicating its access to the sea and will destabilize trade with Nigeria, its regional economic partner. most important.

In nine months, this power deconstructed everything that was working – development projects stopped but indebtedness following the pattern of the toxic loan from China to Zambia – and did not repair anything that was going wrong: the jihadist attacks led to, since the putsch, at least, the death of ten times more soldiers than the total of fifty-nine losses recorded during the two years of Mohamed Bazoum's presidency.

Devoid of any democratic legitimacy, the junta cannot claim, to date, any legitimacy linked to its performance. You should know that in 2022, 47% of children under the age of 5 suffered from chronic malnutrition and that more than 50% of Nigeriens live below the poverty line, to fully appreciate the urgency that there to get out of this situation.

Restart the development machine

Regarding the intoxicating myth of a blessing of natural resources, mobilized to temporarily dupe the youngest, it is enough to relate the rent that one can hope to extract from uranium and oil to the number of Nigeriens, which is growing rapidly (3.7% per year), to move from dream to reality.

And then, even the exploitation of these resources will require capital and can be derailed into a curse, if it is not managed with competence and fairness, quality and virtue of which the government of the putschists seems completely devoid. We must therefore not misunderstand the challenge of our relations with external partners.

We need the savings of others to finance investments that generate job-creating economic growth, in order to combat poverty, as Ethiopia and Bangladesh are doing. Attracting foreign direct investment is the only way we can benefit from globalization, which is impossible in the current situation.

It is time for Nigeriens to force the junta to release President Mohamed Bazoum and initiate a process of return to democratic government, to restart the development machine. We will have, I am convinced, the help of all democrats in Africa and elsewhere to achieve this.