Niger’s president Mohamed Bazoum detained by presidential guards

Niger President Mohamed Bazoum is being detained by members of the Presidential Guard, who have been given an “ultimatum” by the army, a source close to Bazoum said on Wednesday.

Disgruntled members of the guard sealed off access to the president’s residence and offices, and after talks broke down “refused to release the president,” the source said, adding: “The army has given them an ultimatum.”

Bazoum was democratically elected in 2021, taking the helm of one of Africa’s poorest and most coup-prone countries.

Earlier on Wednesday, several security sources said soldiers from Niger’s presidential guard have blockaded the presidential palace in the capital Niamey.

A Reuters reporter saw military vehicles blocking the entrance to the presidential palace. Access to ministries next to the palace had also been blocked, the security sources said.

Niamey appeared calm on Wednesday morning, with normal traffic on the road and full internet access, a Reuters reporter said.

The movements have the semblance of four military takeovers that have hit neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso since 2020.

Those coups were spurred in part by frustrations over authorities’ failure to stem an insurgency blighting the Sahel region, which includes Niger.

There was also a thwarted coup attempt in Niger in March 2021, when a military unit tried to seize the presidential palace days before the recently elected Bazoum was due to be sworn in.

Niger is a key ally to Western powers seeking to support local troops fighting the insurgency, which took root in Mali in 2012 and has spread to neighboring countries including Burkina Faso and the southern coastal states.

France moved troops to the country from Mali last year after its relations with the junta there soured.

Bazoum’s election was the first democratic transition of power in a state that has witnessed four military coups since independence from France in 1960.

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