1 of 3 | Supporters of putschist soldiers hold Niger's and Russia's flags as they celebrate outside the National Assembly building in Niamey, Niger, on Thursday. Mutinous soldiers calling themselves the National Council for the Safeguarding of the Country claimed to have overthrown President Mohamed Bazoum, Niger’s democratically elected president, in a televised address on Wednesday. Photo by EPA-EFE
July 27 (UPI) -- Soldiers in Niger said they have removed President Mohamed Bazoum from office in an apparent coup of the democratically elected government, raising worries among the international community over the future of the West African nation.
Surrounded by nine officers from various military branches, Col. Maj. Amadou Abdramane, representing the so-called National Council for the Safeguarding of the Homeland, announced in a televised address Wednesday that Bazoum's presidency was no more.
"This day, July 26, 2023, we, the defense and security forces, gathered within the National Council for the Safeguarding of the Homeland, have decided to put an end to the regime that you know," he said, reading a press release.
"This follows the continued deterioration of the security situation and poor economic and social governance.
"We reassure the national and international community regarding respect for the physical and moral integrity of the deposed authorities in accordance with the principles of human rights."
All land and air borders have been closed and a curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. will be enforced until further notice, he said.
Niger, an ally of democratic countries, is the latest West African government in the Sahel region to fall in a coup after neighbors Mali in 2021 and Burkina Faso twice last year.
The announcement comes after it was learned that Wednesday morning Bazoum was being held by his presidential guard. On Twitter, the presidency disseminated pictures of democracy advocates taking to the streets of the capital Niamey in protest.
"The president of the republic and his family are doing well," it said in a brief statement. "The Army and National Guard are ready to attack the elements of the GP involved in this mood swing if they do not return to better feelings."
The Economic Community of West African States, a regional intergovernmental organization of 15 nations, said in a statement it has received news of the "attempt coup d'etat in Niger with shock and consternation."
"ECOWAS condemns in the strongest terms the attempt to seize power by force and calls on the coup plotters to free the democratically elected president of the republic immediately and without any condition," it said, adding that it and the international community "will hold all those involved in the plot responsible for the security and safety of the president, his family, members of the government and the general public."
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also condemned the "unconstitutional change of government in Niger" and was "deeply disturbed" by Bazoum's detention.
"The United Nations stands in solidarity with the democratically elected government and the people of Niger," the secretary-general's spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he had spoken with Bazoum on Wednesday to convey the United States' "unwavering support" for his presidency and Niger's democracy.
He said the United States stands with the Nigerien people and international partners condemning the coup, while threatening that U.S. economic and security partnerships with the West African nation depend on democratic government and respect of the rule of law and human rights.
At the White House, John Kirby, National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, told reporters during a press conference that they are still gathering facts about the events unfolding in Niamey.
"We specifically urge the elements of the presidential guard to release [Bazoum] from detention and to refrain from any violence," he said.
"But it's all unfolding right now, and we're just going to have to stay tuned to it."