US secretary of state speaks with Nigerien president amid coup attempt

US secretary of state speaks with Nigerien president amid coup attempt

'US condemns efforts to overthrow Niger's constitutional order by force and emphasizes that our partnership depends on the pursuit of democratic governance,' Blinken tells Bazoum

By Aurore Bonny

DOUALA, Cameroon (AA) – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday spoke with Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum, who is currently resisting a coup attempt staged by a military faction, and expressed Washington's support for democracy in the western African country.

"I told him of our support for the democratically elected president of Niger. The United States condemns efforts to overthrow Niger's constitutional order by force and emphasizes that our partnership depends on the pursuit of democratic governance," Blinken said on Twitter, citing a phone conversation with the Nigerien president.

President Bazoum has been detained by elements of the presidential guard since Wednesday morning, and later some soldiers appeared on national television late Wednesday to announce the removal of the head of state.

Calling themselves the National Council for the Safeguarding of the Country, they read out a coup statement in a video and broadcast on state television ORTN.

According to the statement issued by Col. Major Amadou Abdramane, Bazoum has been deposed and the constitution has been suspended due to the country's deteriorating security situation and socioeconomic crisis.

A curfew will be imposed between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. local time, and all borders have been closed, the statement added.

Several African and Western leaders, as well as the UN, have condemned the current events in Niger, urging soldiers involved in the attempted coup to return to their barracks.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has also spoken with Bazoum, who, according to the presidency, is in good health with the national guards, which are ready to attack elements of the presidential guard involved in the coup attempt.

"The hard-won gains will be safeguarded. All Nigeriens who love democracy and freedom will see to it," Bazoum said on Twitter on Thursday.

- Niger premier decries coup attempt

Niger's interim Prime Minister Hassoumi Massoudou condemned the coup attempt, telling France24 on Thursday that the putschist has not waited for the end of the mediation process initiated on Wednesday by Mahamadou Issoufou, Bazoum's predecessor, and Nigeria's President Ahmed Tinubu who also serves as the president of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

"A Nigerian delegation arrived to mediate, as did former President Issoufou. However, before the mediation concluded, the putschist issued a statement declaring their seizure of power. We believe that there is no fait accompli: the legal and legitimate power is that of Bazoum. There has been an attempted coup that we cannot consider," Massoudou declared.

The whole army is not involved, least of all, the army chief, who has not spoken out, he said.

"The people of Niger cannot accept this. We have totally overcome this anachronistic mode of expression by a tiny fringe of the population that wants to take and exercise power through force. We call on these officers to fall in line, accept dialogue, and let the institutions continue to function," he added.

He said the coup attempt is ineffective because it is "underway in Niger" and is being carried out by "fake officers."

When asked about the possible reasons for this coup attempt, he asserted that it is not due to a crisis in Niger.

"There is no fundamental crisis in Niger. We have terrorism, which we have sufficiently tamed through actions with remarkable results. They can't add another problem to this one," he said.

- Tense-calm in Niamey

On Thursday, the capital Niamey is tense-calm after protests in support of democracy the day before.

"I slept very little during the night, which is normal given the circumstances. I stayed at home this morning because we were told not to go out. Our organization advised us not to go out. We're working from home. But it's relatively calm," a local resident told Anadolu over the phone, requesting anonymity due to his personal security.

"We're looking at the news that's circulating left and right, and there hasn't been much movement in the other regions of Niger as a result of the putschist's announcement. Some people are going about their business, and it's a rainy morning, a sign of blessing on the occasion of Ashura (an Islamic 10-day mourning period)," he added.

Niger, a landlocked West African country, has had a turbulent history, having faced numerous coups and coup attempts since its independence from France in 1960.

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