Niger’s president, under house arrest, is said to be low on food 2 weeks after coup

Supporters of Niger's military junta rally, wave Russian flag
Supporters of Niger’s ruling junta rally and wave a Russian flag in the capital, Niamey.
(Sam Mednick / Associated Press)
Share via

Niger’s deposed president is running out of food and experiencing other increasingly dire conditions two weeks after he was ousted in a military coup and put under house arrest, an advisor said Wednesday.

President Mohamed Bazoum, the West African nation’s democratically elected leader, has been held at the presidential palace in Niamey, the capital, with his wife and son since mutinous soldiers moved against him July 26.

The family is living without electricity and has only rice and canned goods left to eat, the advisor said. Bazoum remains in good health for now and will never resign, according to the advisor, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the sensitive situation with the media.


Bazoum’s political party issued a statement confirming the president’s living conditions and said the family was also without running water.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke with Bazoum on Tuesday about recent diplomatic efforts, a spokesman said, and Blinken “emphasized that the safety and security of President Bazoum and his family are paramount.”

This week, Niger’s new military junta took steps to entrench itself in power and rejected international efforts to mediate. On Wednesday, it accused former colonizer France of trying to destabilize the country and of violating its closed airspace.

Niger is the West’s last, best ally in Africa’s Sahel. A coup there may be a victory for Russia.

Aug. 5, 2023

On Monday, the junta named a new prime minister, civilian economist Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine. Zeine is a former economy and finance minister who left office after a previous military coup in 2010 and later worked at the African Development Bank.

“The establishment of a government is significant and signals, at least to the population, that they have a plan in place, with support from across the government,” said Aneliese Bernard, a former U.S. State Department official who specialized in African affairs and is now director of Strategic Stabilization Advisors, a risk advisory group.

The junta refused to admit mediation teams that planned to arrive Tuesday, sent by the United Nations, the African Union and West African regional bloc ECOWAS. The junta cited “evident reasons of security in this atmosphere of menace,” according to a letter seen by the Associated Press.


ECOWAS had threatened to use military force if the junta didn’t reinstate Bazoum by Sunday, a deadline that the junta ignored and that passed without action from ECOWAS. The bloc is expected to meet again Thursday to discuss the situation.

The United Nations food agency says millions of hungry people in West Africa are left without aid because it is struggling with limited funding.

July 5, 2023

It’s been exactly two weeks since soldiers first detained Bazoum and seized power, claiming they could do a better job of protecting the nation from jihadi violence. Groups linked to Al Qaeda and Islamic State have ravaged the Sahel region, a vast expanse south of the Sahara Desert.

Most analysts and diplomats say that rationale doesn’t hold weight and that the takeover was the result of a power struggle between the president and the head of his presidential guard, Gen. Abdourahmane Tchiani, who now says he runs the country.

The coup comes as a blow to many countries in the West, which saw Niger as one of the last democratic partners in the region that they could work with to beat back the extremist threat. It’s also an important supplier of uranium.

Niger’s partners have threatened to cut off hundreds of millions of dollars in military assistance if it does not return to constitutional rule.

The Biden administration says American aid worker Jeffery Woodke, who was kidnapped in Niger six years ago, has been released from captivity.

March 20, 2023

While the crisis drags on, Niger’s 25 million people are bearing the brunt. It’s one of the poorest countries in the world. Many Nigeriens live hand to mouth and say they’re too focused on finding food for their families to pay much attention to the escalating crisis.


Harsh economic and travel sanctions imposed by ECOWAS since the coup have caused food prices to rise by up to 5%, traders say. Erkmann Tchibozo, a shop owner from neighboring Benin who works in Niamey said it’s been hard to get anything into the country to stock his shop near the airport.

If it continues like this, the situation is going to become very difficult, he said.

The junta also shut Niger’s airspace this week and temporarily suspended authorization for diplomatic flights from friendly and partner countries, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

Acting U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland met with the coup leaders but said they refused to allow her to meet Bazoum, who has been detained since being toppled. She described the mutinous officers as unreceptive to her appeals to start negotiations and restore constitutional rule.

The U.S. has some 1,100 military personnel in the country and has seen Niger as a strategic and reliable partner in the region.

Still, Nuland made more headway than other delegations. A previous ECOWAS delegation was prevented from leaving the airport.

It’s unclear what coordination is taking place between the various mediation attempts. Some experts have worried that if efforts are not coordinated, it could undermine ECOWAS.

An 88-year-old Australian doctor held captive by Islamic extremists in West Africa has been freed more than seven years after his kidnapping.

May 19, 2023

“I think the U.S would come to a modus vivendi with this junta, if the junta proved particularly amenable to U.S interests, but that doesn’t seem to be on the table for now,” said Alexander Thurston, assistant professor of political science at the University of Cincinnati.

But analysts say that the longer it takes to find a solution, the more time the junta has to dig in and the less momentum there will be to oust it.


Regional countries are also divided on how to proceed. Neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso, both of which are run by military regimes, have sided with the Nigerien junta and warned that a military intervention would be “tantamount to a declaration of war” against them as well. In a joint letter Tuesday to the U.N., the two countries appealed for the world body to “prevent, by all means at its disposal, armed action against a sovereign state.”

Mali and Burkina Faso also sent representatives to Niamey this week to discuss military options. Officials from all sides said the talks went well.