03:39 - Source: CNN
Army backs coup in Niger, despite international condemnation
CNN  — 

A Niger general, Abdourahamane Tiani, appeared on state television as the country’s new leader following a military coup that sparked international condemnation.

Tiani appeared on Télé Sahel with a banner identifying him as “President of the national council for the safeguard of the homeland.”

Despite the move, an official loyal to the deposed president said there was infighting among the plotters while France has said the coup is “not final.”

The appearance comes a day after the West African country’s military endorsed the leaders behind the toppling of President Mohamed Bazoum’s government.

Tiani said in the broadcast that Wednesday’s coup was motivated by both the desire to “preserve our homeland” in a context of a “deteriorating security situation,” and poor economic and social governance.

Niger’s former government, he said, did not give Nigeriens “a glimpse of a real way out of the (security) crisis.”

ORTN Télé Sahel/AFP via Getty Images
This video frame grab image obtained by AFP from Télé Sahel on Friday shows Gen. Abdourahamane Tiani, speaking on national television.

On Thursday, the Nigerien army command said it was supporting the seizure in a bid to thwart bloodshed. The military’s statement also warned against foreign military intervention, which it said “risks having disastrous and uncontrolled consequences.”

Bazoum was reportedly detained two days ago by members of his own presidential guard. Tiani has led the body since his appointment by former President Mahamadou Issoufou.

International condemnation

Niger lies at the heart of Africa’s Sahel region, which has seen numerous power grabs in recent years including in Mali and Burkina Faso.

A key ally of the United States, France and other Western governments, Niger had been one of the few democracies in a region fraught with Islamist insurgencies.

The ongoing situation unfolding in Niger in recent days has prompted swift condemnation from the global community.

French President Emmanuel Macron said Friday that the coup was “deeply dangerous for Niger and the whole region,” and called for Bazoum’s release.

Macron, who was on an overseas trip to Papua New Guinea Friday and spoke at a press conference alongside the prime minister, described Bazoum as “a courageous leader who is making the reforms and investments that his country needs.”

He added that France – once Niger’s colonial ruler – would support regional organizations should they decide to impose sanctions against the putsch leaders.

He also confirmed that he had spoken with the Nigerien president several times since he was detained.

United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken also held a phone call with President Bazoum.

Blinken reiterated “the United States’ unflagging support” and emphasized the importance of Bazoum’s continuing leadership in Niamey, while praising his role in promoting security in Niger and the rest of west Africa, the spokesman said.

He also expressed his “grave concern” when speaking to Niger’s former President Mahamadou Issoufou, saying that those detaining Bazoum had threatened years of successful cooperation and hundreds of millions of dollars of assistance that have supported the Nigerien people.

Under US law, if the US State Department formally classifies the Niger takeover as a coup, it would require the US to cut foreign and military assistance to the Nigerien government, which could have serious consequences for the fight against terrorism and stability in the region.

AFP via Getty Images
Supporters of the Nigerien defense and security forces demonstrate outside the national assembly in the capital of Niamey on Thursday.

France’s foreign minister Catherine Colonna said Friday the coup was “not final” and there was “still a way out” of the current crisis for coup leaders if they “listen to the international community.”

The European Union described the situation in Niger as a “serious attack on stability and democracy,” before warning that aid to the country could be suspended following the coup.

The United Nations said on Friday its humanitarian flights in and out of Niger are temporarily grounded due to the closure of the country’s airspace.

“The UN is very concerned about the situation in Niger,” the Office for Humanitarian Affairs said in a statement, adding that humanitarian assistance, development and peace programs would continue in the country.

According to the humanitarian body, Niger had 4.3 million people in humanitarian needs, with 3.3 million in acute food insecurity situation, the vast majority of whom are women and children.

Niger’s coup plotters have ignored international calls to reinstate Bazoum, with the so-called National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP) warning of “consequences” to any foreign military intervention in a separate televised statement on Friday.

The CNSP also ordered the suspension of the country’s constitution as well as the dissolution of all institutions resulting from it before naming Tiani as head of state “representing the state of Niger in international relations.”

However, a senior official loyal to Bazoum has suggested there is discord among coup leaders.

“The situation is still confusing at the palace,” the aide said. “The putsch leaders cannot agree on who will be the head of the transition, the disagreement is deep.”

The official said some of those involved in the coup “are beginning to fear the sanctions of [African regional body] ECOWAS and the international community and want to negotiate their exit.”

CNN is unable to verify the officials’ comments. The aide spoke on condition of not being identified because of the security situation.

The official also commented on the Tiani’s broadcast earlier Friday, labeling it a “non-event” before adding that Bazoum had no intention of resigning. He said the president and his family were “in good health.”

Bazoum’s whereabouts unknown

The president’s whereabouts remain unknown, though Macron is one of several global leaders who have said they’ve been in contact with him since he was taken into custody.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield spoke with Bazoum “to express her strong support for the democratically-elected leader,” the spokesperson for the US Mission to the United Nations said.

Bazoum is “feeling well,” Chairman of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, said after speaking with him, Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported. Mahamat added that Nigerian mediators are in Niger for talks with rebels.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres also said he had spoken with Bazoum “to convey to him all our solidarity.”

Bazoum took office in 2021 in the country’s first democratic transfer of power was following years of military coups. Niger has experienced four takeovers since its independence from France in 1960.

“The hard-won achievements will be safeguarded. All Nigeriens who love democracy and freedom will see to it,” Niger’s presidential office tweeted on Thursday, after the coup was announced late Wednesday night.

A man identified as Col. Maj. Amadou Abdramane appeared in the video, flanked by several apparent soldiers, and announced: “We have decided to put an end to the regime that you know.” Abdramane later said all activities of political parties had been suspended “until the new order.”

CNN’s Eve Brennan and Lauren Said-Moorhouse contributed to this report from London; with Dalal Mawad, Oliver Briscoe and Joseph Ataman from Paris. Tim Lister, Jennifer Hansler, Josh Pennington, Niamh Kennedy, Caitlin Hu, Mohammed Tawfeeq, Bethlehem Feleke and Alex Stambaugh also contributed to this story.