Light Wave


Niger’s Democracy, U.S. Prestige at Risk Amid Coup Attempt

By Belal Awad · July 27, 2023

In brief…

  • Niger is undergoing a military coup, with U.S.-ally President Bazoum detained and deposed.
  • The U.S. conducts counterrorism and drone mission in concert with Niger.
  • The unfolding coup raises questions over U.S. effectiveness in the region.
  • Democratically elected Bazoum has been considered a bright spot in the region.
Image of the coup plotters announcing that they have deposed the President.  RTN/Public Domain

Noted African political expert Cameron Hudson voiced deep concern over the unfolding political crisis in Niger. The West African nation is currently grappling with an unfolding military coup that has seen incumbent President Mohamed Bazoum detained by members of his own presidential guard. Since then, Niger’s army announced it would support the takeover to wide condemnation from the international community, the U.S., the African Union and regional economic organization ECOWAS.

Hudson, a former director of African affairs at the White House National Security Council, told Al Jazeera the coup is of particular interest to the US, which has over a thousand military personnel stationed in Niger. The military detachment conducts counterterrorism operations and training the Nigerian military. He added that two U.S. drone bases operating in Niger surveil the entire Sahel region.

Hudson said, “There has been… much more rallying around the Nigerian president than we saw perhaps in Burkina Faso or Mali, where military coups came after other military coups. Bazoum was a kind of bright spot in this region. He was a democratically elected president.”

President Bazoum’s democratic legitimacy and his alignment with Western alliances had positioned him as a crucial partner for the US in the Sahel region. “We’ve seen Washington trying to rally support not only from itself, but we’ve seen the neighboring states coming in on Benin and Nigeria intervening with mediation efforts”.

“Niger was the last remaining Democratic state in the entire region,” Hudson contunued, referring to the recent spate of military coups in neighboring countries. He noted that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Niger just three months ago, promising more than $150 million in humanitarian assistance and political support. Hudson also raised doubts over the effectiveness of U.S. engagement in the region, asking, “After all this money and attention and engagement and assistance, if we cannot keep Niger on a democratic path, then what are we doing wrong?”

The U.S. has expressed staunch support for President Bazoum throughout the crisis.