Niger is just the latest in a string of anti-colonial coups in Africa
Supporters of Niger's ruling junta gather at the start of a protest called to fight for the country's freedom and push back against foreign interference in Niamey, Niger, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2023. The march fell on the West African nation's independence day from its former colonial ruler, France, and as anti-French sentiment spikes, more than one week after mutinous soldiers ousted the country's president. | Sam Mednick / AP

At 3 a.m. on July 26, 2023, the presidential guard detained President Mohamed Bazoum in Niamey, the capital of Niger. Troops, led by Brigadier General Abdourahmane Tchiani, closed the country’s borders and declared a curfew.

The coup d’etat was immediately condemned by the Economic Community of West African States, the African Union, and the European Union. Both France and the United States—which have military bases in Niger—said that they were watching the situation closely.

A tussle between the army—which claimed to be pro-Bazoum—and the presidential guard threatened the capital, but it soon fizzled out.

On July 27, General Abdou Sidikou Issa of the army released a statement, saying that he would accept the situation to “avoid a deadly confrontation between the different forces which… could cause a bloodbath.”

Brigadier General Tchiani went on television on July 28 to announce that he was the new president of the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (Conseil National pour la Sauvegarde de la Patrie, or CNSP).

French soldiers disembark from a U.S. Air Force C-130 cargo plane at Niamey, Niger base, on June 9, 2021. On Thursday, Aug. 3, 2023, night, the junta said on state television it was terminating the military agreements and protocols signed with its former colonial ruler, France. | Jerome Delay / AP

The coup in Niger follows similar ones in Mali (August 2020 and May 2021), Burkina Faso (January 2022 and September 2022), and Guinea (September 2021). Each was led by military officers angered by the presence of French and US troops and by the permanent economic crises inflicted on their countries.

This region of Africa—the Sahel—has faced a cascade of crises: the desiccation of the land due to the climate catastrophe; the rise of Islamist militancy due to the 2011 NATO war in Libya; the increase in smuggling networks to traffic weapons, humans, and drugs across the desert; the appropriation of natural resources—including uranium and gold—by Western companies that have simply not paid adequately for these riches; and the entrenchment of Western military forces through the construction of bases and the operation of these armies with impunity.

Two days after the coup, the CNSP announced the names of the 10 officers who were its leaders. They come from the entire range of the armed forces, from the army (General Mohamed Toumba) to the air force (Colonel Major Amadou Abouramane) to the national police (Deputy General Manager Assahaba Ebankawel).

It is by now clear that one of the most influential members of the CNSP is General Salifou Mody, former chief of staff of the military and leader in the Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy, which led the February 2010 coup against President Mamadou Tandja and which governed Niger until Bazoum’s predecessor Mahamadou Issoufou won the 2011 presidential election.

It was during Issoufou’s time in office that the United States government built the world’s largest drone base in Agadez and that the French special forces garrisoned the city of Irlit on behalf of the uranium mining company Orano (formerly a part of Areva).

It is important to note that Mody is perceived as an influential member of CNSP given his influence in the army and his international contacts.

On Feb. 28, 2023, Mody met the United States chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley during the African Chiefs of Defense conference in Rome to discuss “regional stability, including counterterrorism cooperation and the continued fight against violent extremism in the region.”

On March 9, Mody visited Mali to meet Colonel Assimi Goita and the chief of staff of the Malian army, General Oumar Diarra, to strengthen military cooperation between Niger and Mali.

A few days later, on March 16, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Niger to meet Bazoum.

In what many in Niger perceived as a sidelining of Mody, he was appointed on June 1 as the Nigerien ambassador to the United Arab Emirates. Mody, it is said in Niamey, is the voice in the ear of Brigadier General Tchiani, the titular head of state.

Corruption and the West

A highly-informed source in Niger tells us that the reason the military moved against Bazoum is that “he’s corrupt, a pawn of France.

“Nigeriens were fed up with him and his gang. They are in the process of arresting the members of the deposed system, who embezzled public funds, many of whom have taken refuge in foreign embassies.”

The issue of corruption hangs over Niger, a country with one of the world’s most lucrative uranium deposits. The “corruption” that is talked about in Niger is not about petty bribes by government officials, but about an entire structure—developed during French colonial rule—that prevents Niger from establishing sovereignty over its raw materials and over its development.

At the heart of the “corruption” is the so-called “joint venture” between Niger and France called Societe des Mines de l’Air (Somair), which owns and operates the uranium industry in the country.

Strikingly, 85% of Somair is owned by France’s Atomic Energy Commission and two French companies, while only 15% is owned by Niger’s government. Niger produces over 5% of the world’s uranium, but its uranium is of very high quality.

Half of Niger’s export receipts are from sales of uranium, oil, and gold. One in three lightbulbs in France are powered by uranium from Niger while  42% of the African country’s population live below the poverty line.

The people of Niger have watched their wealth slip through their fingers for decades. As a mark of the government’s weakness, over the course of the past ten years, Niger has lost over $906 million in only 10 arbitration cases brought by multinational corporations before the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes and the International Chamber of Commerce.

France stopped using the franc in 2002 when it switched to the euro system. But 14 former French colonies continued to use the Communaute Financiere Africaine (CFA), which gives immense advantages to France (50% of the reserves of these countries have to be held in the French treasury and France’s devaluations of the CFA—as in 1994—have catastrophic effects on the countries that use it).

In this photo taken April 16, 2018, a U.S. and Niger flag are raised side by side at the construction of Niger Air Base 201 in Agadez, Niger. The U.S. has several thousand troops stationed in the country. | Carley Petesch / AP

In 2015, Chad’s president Idriss Deby Itno said that the CFA “pulls African economies down” and that the “time had come to cut the cord that prevents Africa from developing.” Talk now across the Sahel is for not only the removal of French troops—as has taken place in Burkina Faso and in Mali—but of a break with the French economic hold on the region.

The new non-alignment

At the 2023 Russia-Africa Summit in July, Burkina Faso’s leader, President Ibrahim Traore, wore a red beret that echoed the uniform of the assassinated socialist leader of his country, Thomas Sankara.

Traore reacted strongly to the condemnation of the military coups in the Sahel, including to a recent visit to his country by an African Union delegation. “A slave that does not rebel does not deserve pity,” he said. “The African Union must stop condemning Africans who decide to fight against their own puppet regimes of the West.”

In February, Burkina Faso hosted a meeting that included the governments of Mali and Guinea. On the agenda was the creation of a new federation of these states. It is likely that Niger will be invited into these conversations.

This article was produced by Globetrotter (

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Vijay Prashad
Vijay Prashad

Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian and journalist. He is the author of forty books, the executive director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research, the chief correspondent for Globetrotter, and the chief editor of LeftWord Books (New Delhi).

Kambale Musavuli
Kambale Musavuli

Kambale Musavuli, a native of the Democratic Republic of Congo and one of the leading political and cultural Congolese voices, is a human rights advocate, Student Coordinator, and National Spokesperson for the Friends of the Congo.