My country is under attack, I’ve been taken hostage: Niger's Bazoum

My country is under attack, I’ve been taken hostage: Niger's Bazoum

Junta is trying ‘to overthrow democracy’ after coup in West African country, says deposed president

By Merve Berker

Niger’s deposed president said on Thursday that the country is under attack and he has been taken hostage, adding that the Nigerien junta is trying to “overthrow democracy” in the West African country.

In a guest op-ed for The Washington Post, President Mohamed Bazoum said: “My country is under attack and I’ve been taken hostage. I am just one of hundreds of citizens who have been arbitrarily and illegally imprisoned” following the July 26 coup in the country.

Stressing that the coup “has no justification whatsoever,” the Nigerien president warned that “it will have devastating consequences” for all if the junta gets what it wants.

Citing what the US, African Union, EU, and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have been saying about the coup, Bazoum reiterated: “This coup must end, and the junta must free everyone they have unlawfully arrested.”

“Niger’s security situation has improved dramatically — facilitated by the very partnerships the junta opposes,” he wrote. “Foreign aid makes up 40% of our national budget, but it will not be delivered if the coup succeeds.”

There have been no terrorist attacks in the southern, northern, or western parts of the country, he stressed, “thanks to our allies’ support and training from partners.”

“Niger is now the safest it has been in the past 15 years,” he underlined.

Comparing the country’s security situation with its neighbors, Bazoum said that it “is significantly better” than its neighbors Mali and Burkina Faso.

“My government has been similarly successful in terms of economic and social governance. After a slow recovery from COVID-19 in 2021, our per capita growth rate more than tripled to 7.4% last year,” he said.

“2022 was Niger’s first year without a single school day lost to strikes from teachers or students,” he added.

“Workers did not go on strike in any major sector, and my administration signed landmark agreements with unions to create a safer and more stable working environment across the nation,” the Nigerien president added.

- Country’s future

Underscoring that the African country “cannot lose this momentum,” Bazoum cited warnings and sanctions by ECOWAS to the junta administration.

“These measures are already demonstrating what a future would look like under an autocratic junta with no vision or reliable allies,” he stated.

“In Africa’s troubled Sahel region, Niger stands as the last bastion of respect for human rights amid the authoritarian movements that have overtaken some of our neighbors.

“While this coup attempt is a tragedy for Nigeriens, its success would have devastating consequences far beyond our borders,” he warned.

“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, whose brutal terrorism has been on full display in Ukraine,” he wrote.

“Boko Haram and other terrorist movements will surely take advantage of Niger’s instability, using our country as a staging ground to attack neighboring countries and undermine peace, safety and freedom around the world.

“They will ramp up their efforts to target our youths with hateful anti-Western indoctrination, turning them against the very partners who are helping us build a more hopeful future,” he emphasized.

Calling on the US government and the entire international community to lend a helping hand in Niger’s cause, he said: “Fighting for our shared values, including democratic pluralism and respect for the rule of law, is the only way to make sustainable progress against poverty and terrorism.”

“The Nigerien people will never forget your support at this pivotal moment in our history.”

- Junta coup

On Wednesday, the US ordered the evacuation of all non-emergency government personnel from its embassy in Niger amid fears of growing conflict.

European countries, including France, have also evacuated their nationals.

On July 26, Bazoum was detained by members of the Presidential Guard, and that evening, the military announced that it had seized power.

Gen. Abdourahamane Tchiani, the commander of Niger's presidential guard, declared himself the head of a transitional government two days after deposing Bazoum.

On Sunday ECOWAS issued a one-week deadline to Niger's junta to return the country to normal and release Bazoum, who was democratically elected in 2021.

The West African bloc has threatened to use force, and its defense chiefs have met in Nigeria to discuss this.

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