Sankalp Wadhwani's Blog

Understanding the Niger Coup and its Implications

August 29, 2023

Located in the Sahel where more than 50% of the people live in poverty, Niger and several other nations face the threat of terrorism as it provides a fertile ground for terrorist cells. [1] More importantly, Niger was one of the region’s few nations that was not under military rule. Now, the country is blamed for human rights violations resulting in refugees fleeing their respective countries towards Europe or and a government that supports anti-Western policies. However, a democratic Niger once favored Western interests in the region. When Western troops moved from Mali to Niger, there was peace to some extent. Major American drone bases are located in Niamey and Agadez, where more than a thousand US troops and 1,500 French soldiers are stationed. Since 2021, the E.U. has provided €500 million ($550 million) worth of funding for development assistance programs. In addition to serving as a critical hub for limiting migration flows northward, Niger was once the cornerstone of the West's Sahel strategy. [2]


Source: Reuters 

Given its uranium resources, geographic location, and colonial history, Niger has emerged as one of the most important nations in Africa for global powerplay. The recent coup in Niger has harmed Western interests as Niger played a crucial strategic role for the West. More importantly, the security of the entire region has further become more unstable, as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) call for intervention and terrorism is on the rise.

The following article analyzes how Niger came under the belt of its recent coup and the international community's reaction to it, a factor that will determine the fate of the region's security.

Why Was There A Coup?

The Sahel region has had a long history of coups since its independence in the 1960s. During the last few decades, the region witnessed some degree of stability and democracy; however, the region is once again returning to military rule as new young leaders aim to overthrow democratically elected leaders by using anti-colonial sentiments among the public. Such is the case with Niger, where the military used anti-French sentiments among the public to justify their rule and in addition to bracing an anti-West stance. Afrobarometer, a reputable research organization from Ghana, conducted a study in 2022 and discovered that two-thirds of respondents believed military personnel could step in when elected officials misused their positions of authority. [3] This shows the public will accept military rule when a democratically elected government does not produce positive results.

Nigeriens host anti-French sentiments for various reasons. Firstly, despite colonial rule over Niger, France is blamed for utilizing neo-colonialist practices over its former colonies, also known as "Françafrique." Under Françafrique, the CFA Franc, which is tied to the euro, must be kept in 50% of a nation's foreign exchange reserves at the Banque de France. [4] Due to this, many believe that African sovereignty is constrained, and France systematically exploits their economy. More importantly, since the euro's arrival, the yearly income growth rate in the franc zone has been 1.4% on average versus 2.5% for all of sub-Saharan Africa. [5] Secondly, the presence of US and French bases in Niger and French-UN failures in recent counter-terrorism operations in the region catalyzed existing anti-French sentiments. Paris sent about 5,000 troops as part of Operation Barkhane: UN’s MINUSMA had 15,000 troops present. Also, the EU had special forces deployed as part of Operation Takuba and G5-Sahel Force was established to protect states from the terrorist threat. However, terrorism and bloodshed in the region only grew under these security initiatives as France's initiatives were primarily militarized. They mistook terrorism as the root cause of instability and could not address the underlying issues of governance and democratization in which the region required support. In addition, there were also operational blunders resulting in the rise of anti-French sentiments. Therefore, 40% of Burkina Faso's territory fell under the hands of jihadists when Ibrahim Traore left office in September 2022, diminishing the reputation of France and its allies as regional security providers. [6]

Now, Niger is ranked tenth as a nation most affected by terrorism internationally, being caught in the crossfire of numerous al-Qaeda and Islamic State-affiliated organizations operating in the Sahel and Lake Chad areas. [7]

Apart from the Bazoum administration's pro-Western stance and clashing anti-West sentiments shared among the public, General Tchiani, Niger’s coup commander, attributed the coup to Bazoum's political errors, which he said endangered national security and caused corruption and economic hardship. [8] Also, ECOWAS and the African Union failed to take a strong stand against military power grabs in Guinea, Burkina Faso, and Mali, which may have encouraged the Nigerien military to take action, despite many coup failures since 2020 acorss the region. One of the regional leaders of African Union said other leaders in the region kept lines of communication open with the three military presidents out of politeness at a roundtable discussion on the effects of military involvement in West Africa hosted by the research tank Chatham House in London. This gives the impression that military takeovers are not discouraged in the Sahel region. [9]

Regardless of the claims and speculations surrounding the coup leaders, the real underlying motivation for the coup remains unclear. Many assume that it is due to Bazoum's actions on limiting military budgets and the recent suspension of many military officers when entering office, which made General Tiani’s hold over the country insecure. Consequently, the coup took place quickly, and only a few high-level leaders knew about it, so that no military faction would oppose General Tiani. This was evident in the process of the coup, as even two days after the mutiny, it was unknown who was in charge of the country. [10]

International Response

The perceptions of the coup are varied. To begin, ECOWAS took a hard stance towards the coup, implementing sanctions and a no-fly zone over Niger. [11] Besides the sanctions, ECOWAS leaders met on August 10 and released a statement with mixed messages as it authorized the creation of a "standby force" but also vowed to "keep all options on the table for the peaceful resolution of the crisis." [12] Among the ECOWAS members as well, there are conflicting views. The Nigerian leader, who himself is blamed for rigged elections by his opposition, has sanctioned Niger by pausing the supply of electricity to Niger; meanwhile, Chad has tried to mediate the coup diplomatically by acting as a mediator. On the other hand, Mali and Burkina Faso, both of which have military regimes and have been expelled from the ECOWAS alliance, have warned that they will see any attempt at interference in Niger as a declaration of war. [13]

France's President Emmanuel Macron stated, "This coup is illegitimate and profoundly dangerous, for Nigeriens, for Niger, and for the whole region." [14] Due to the West’s vital interests being in danger in Niger and the clear anti-French attitude of the military, France condemned this coup. France has also evacuated its citizens from Niger, and lastly, it has encouraged ECOWAS to take action on this matter.

In a written statement honoring Niger's Independence Day, US President Joe Biden advocated Bazoum's immediate release and stated that Washington "stands with the people of Niger" as the nation faces a "grave challenge to its democracy." [15] The United States has halted aid to Niger since the coup, including funding for peacekeeping operations, peacekeeping missions, and foreign military finance programs that bolster Niger's counter-terrorism capabilities. [16]

Russia, a nation blamed for the coup, despite any hard proof of Russia's involvement, also condemned the coup during the Russia-Africa summit. The Russian Foreign Ministry urged that the military to "promptly release" President Bazoum. [17]

Coup Significance And Implications

This coup reflects that anti-French sentiment will not simply vanish from the Sahel region unless France changes its policies related to Africa's economy. The coup has highlighted the underlying issue in the region, which is the unequal treatment of African nations despite their vast resources. At the recent Russia-Africa summit, the young president of Burkina Faso, Ibrahim Traore, passionately raised the question of how it was possible for a continent with so many riches to remain the world's poorest continent, with "our heads of state crossing the world to beg." [18] There have been similar rhetorical issues raised in the streets of Niger. This sentiment is also present in Nigeria, Niger's neighboring nation. This coup might encourage the Nigerian military to follow their neighbor's path as Nigeria's leader is also facing corruption charges and opposition. Apart from this, there are also implications for the region's security as there is a rise in extremism and the possible involvement of global powers to start a "Scramble of Africa" all over again, yet in a different way.

Since 2011, Libya has been consumed in civil war; Niger has received many refugees from Libya and neighboring nations. Niger was one of the few relatively stable democratic countries, while its neighbors were faced destabilization. Conflicts caused numerous people to be forcefully relocated to the Sahel, with numbers increasing from 3.6 million to 4.1 million in 2022. As a result, the EU and Niger established operational cooperation to combat migrant smuggling. This relationship included a collaboration with Frontex, the EU border agency. [19] Hence, all of Europe's efforts in dealing with the complex region would be completely wasted as both France and the US have halted their partnership with Niger, encouraging illegal smugglers to ramp up their activity. More importantly, Niger, a nation that depends on about USD 2 billion in official development aid annually, as per the World Bank, would suffer greatly from foreign partner disengagement. [20] This would worsen the economic situation in Niger and lead to more refugees migrating to Europe, seeking better opportunities. In turn, the situation in Europe would also deteriorate, in addition to Niger’s neighbor Nigeria, which is already going through an economic recession.

The other crucial area that would be impacted is counter-terrorism efforts. Over the past few years, the region has had various terrorist groups present in the region, and the coup would only give more space for these organizations to expand as the Niger military, like its neighboring nation, would focus on governing rather than defending their country against the extremists. It may only be a matter of time until a Sahel-wide extremist super-state is built, much like how Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi centered his caliphate on the twin cities of Raqqa and Mosul and how Osama bin Laden constructed training camps in rural Afghanistan to plan operations against the West. [21] Here, Western efforts would take a significant hit. The US built Air Facility 201, the second-biggest US facility in Africa after the permanent installation in Djibouti and the most extensive drone base in the Agadez region. [22] Even though France's traditional tactics failed, American drones and intelligence assets have been crucial in regional anti-terror operations. Military coups, as seen in Mali and Burkina Faso, have only increased terrorist assaults since experience has shown that they worsen the security apparatus. [23] Therefore, a coup in Niger would likely increase terrorist activities, as it is a nation stuck at a crossroads and has lost the ability to collaborate with the West. Niger's uranium resources could also get into the hands of the extremists, which would have grave consequences for Africa's security and the whole world.

The coup could attract foreign powers to intervene or actively engage in the region to protect their interests. The coup has already brewed tensions between the West and Russia, even though Russia has advised Niger to return to a democratic state. Nonetheless, Western nations could most likely interfere by encouraging and funding ECOWAS to counter growing Russian influence due to Russia's legacy of being an anti-colonial power, sentiments which are on the rise as locals in Niger wave Russian flags in protest to its colonial past. Furthermore, due to the region's resources and strategic location, it is vital for Western, Chinese, and Russian interests to stabilize the country.

Lastly, Niger could also fall into a civil war like South Sudan. There seems to be a divide in the military and the country. The start of the coup itself could have been better planned, as there was no official announcement of who was in control of the nation after the coup for two days. Earlier, hundreds of Bazoum-supporting demonstrators gathered in the capital, Niamey. [24] Moreover, a group named the Council of Resistance for the Republic (CRR) was also formed by Rhissa Ag Boula to reinstate President Bazoum. Given his standing among the Tuaregs, who dominate politics and business over most of the vast north, Ag Boula's remarks will alarm the coup's leaders. Support from Tuaregs would be essential to extend the junta's rule beyond Niamey's municipal borders. [27] This could also lead a foreign power, like the US, to enter into proxy civil war. Earlier at a media conference, Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, the Pentagon's press secretary, stated that US personnel in the West African nation still cooperate with Nigerien forces not "associated with this seizure of the president" to maintain US outposts. [28] Meanwhile, the coup leader, General Omar Tiani, who was trained by the US and France and participated in several peacekeeping missions, would be aware of the West's tactics, which is why Russia is being invited to support his cause and counter the West.

[1] Levina, View all posts by "Season of Coup in the African Sahel for Russian and Western Allies." Season of the coup in the African Sahel for Russian and Western Allies—Resonant News, August 2, 2023,

[2] Arab News "A Plague of Coups Plunges Africa's Sahel into Anarchy," July 31, 2023.

[3] BBC News "Niger Coup: A Litmus Test for Democracy in West Africa," n.d.

[4] Busari, Stephanie. "Africa's Latest Coup Is a Headache for the West and an Opportunity for Russia | CNN" CNN, August 3, 2023,

[5] Levina, View all posts by "Season of Coup in the African Sahel for Russian and Western Allies." Season of the coup in the African Sahel for Russian and Western Allies—Resonant News, August 2, 2023,

[6] Eguegu, Ovigwe, 2023 "Crisis in Niger: West Africa at the Cusp of a Proxy War" ORF, August 5, 2023

[7] International Centre for Counter-Terrorism (ICCT) "Unravelling the Niger Coup and Its Implications for Violent Extremism in the Sahel," August 4, 2023

[8] euronews. "Coup d'état in Niger: Is Russia Involved?" August 9, 2023

[9] Ajala, Olayinka. "What Caused the Coup in Niger? An Expert Outlines Three Driving Factors." The Conversation, July 31, 2023

[10] The Indian Express "No Clarity about Who's in Charge in Niger, 2 Days after Mutinous Soldiers Ousted the President," July 28, 2023

[11] "Wave of Sahel Coups Leaves Only One Winner, Russia | Faisal Al Yafai | AW." n.d. A.W.

[12] J. Cookson, "Did the Niger Coup Just Succeed? And Other Questions Answered about What's Next in the Sahel." Atlantic Council, August 10, 2023

[13] "Wave of Sahel Coups Leaves Only One Winner, Russia | Faisal Al Yafai | AW." n.d. A.W.

[14] France 24, "France's Macron Says Niger Coup 'Illegitimate' and 'Dangerous' for Sahel Region," July 28, 2023

[15] Busari, Stephanie. "Africa's Latest Coup Is a Headache for the West and an Opportunity for Russia | CNN" CNN, August 3, 2023,

[16] Balima, Boureima, and Abdel-Kader Mazou "Niger Hit with More Sanctions as Junta Rebuffs Latest Diplomatic Mission" Reuters, August 8, 2023,

[17] Conte, Chris Lau, Jennifer Hauser, Michael "Niger's Ousted President Warns of 'devastating' Coup Impact, Growing Russian Influence | CNN" CNN, August 4, 2023

[18] "Wave of Sahel Coups Leaves Only One Winner, Russia | Faisal Al Yafai | AW." n.d. A.W.

[19] euronews. "What the Niger Coup Means for Europe's Relationship with the Sahel," August 4, 2023.

[20] International Centre for Counter-Terrorism (ICCT) "Unravelling the Niger Coup and Its Implications for Violent Extremism in the Sahel," August 4, 2023

[21] Arab News "A Plague of Coups Plunges Africa's Sahel into Anarchy," July 31, 2023.

[22] Bezreh, Aman Al., "Niger Coup: France and Russia's Battle for Influence." The New Arab, August 3, 2023

[23] International Centre for Counter-Terrorism (ICCT) "Unravelling the Niger Coup and Its Implications for Violent Extremism in the Sahel," August 4, 2023

[24] Kennedy, Larry Madowo, Sarah Dean, and Niamh "Nigeria Soldiers Claim Power After President's Own Guards Reportedly Seize Him | CNN." CNN, July 26, 2023.

[25] The Indian Express Niger's Ex-Rebel Launches Anti-Coup Movement in First Sign of Internal Resistance," August 9, 2023.

[26] Conte, Chris Lau, Jennifer Hauser, and Michael "Niger's Ousted President Warns of 'devastating' Coup Impact, Growing Russian Influence | CNN" CNN, August 4, 2023

Share this article

Poll conducted

  1. In your opinion, what are the US long-term goals for Russia?
    U.S. wants to establish partnership relations with Russia on condition that it meets the U.S. requirements  
     33 (31%)
    U.S. wants to deter Russia’s military and political activity  
     30 (28%)
    U.S. wants to dissolve Russia  
     24 (22%)
    U.S. wants to establish alliance relations with Russia under the US conditions to rival China  
     21 (19%)
For business
For researchers
For students