After appealing to the United States and other allies for help in restoring Niger’s president to power for nearly three weeks, friends and supporters of the democratically elected leader are now making a desperate plea to save his life. President Mohamed Bazoum, the leader of Niger’s only remaining Western-allied democracy in the Sahara and Sahel, is currently confined with his family in the basement of his presidential compound. The junta that overthrew him has cut off their access to food, electricity, and cooking gas. The ambassador of Niger to the United States, Mamadou Kiari Liman-Tinguiri, has described the situation as life-threatening, stating that they are “killing” the president by starving him to death. This treatment is inhumane and should not be tolerated in the year 2023.
Liman-Tinguiri, who has daily calls with the detained leader, revealed that Bazoum is isolated in a dark basement. However, he still manages to answer phone calls from trusted contacts. The president has not been seen in public since July 26, when the military seized power. Although it is challenging to independently verify his circumstances, international entities like the United States and the United Nations have expressed deep concern for his well-being. Human Rights Watch has also spoken directly to the detained president and received similar accounts of mistreatment.
Despite reports from an activist supporting the junta that the president is not in dire straits, the gravity of the situation cannot be ignored. Niger has a history of military takeovers, but the current coup has garnered attention due to Bazoum’s democratic election and the United States’ substantial investment in supporting Niger’s democracy and counterterrorism efforts. The U.S. has built bases in Niger and has a significant security presence to combat armed jihadist groups in West Africa.
The soldiers who overthrew Bazoum have provided few details about their plans, and they have resisted calls from the international community to restore democracy. U.S. Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland even traveled to Niger to engage with the junta members, but they remained unreceptive. The junta has warned that Bazoum would die if the regional ECOWAS security bloc intervened militarily.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has spoken with the detained president multiple times and expressed concern for his safety. The U.S. has reduced aid to the government and halted military cooperation. Blinken has also voiced support for ECOWAS and its diplomatic efforts. However, if military force becomes necessary, there is a fear that it could further endanger Bazoum’s life.
Bazoum, his family, and his allies are calling on regional partners, the U.S., and other allies to intervene and help secure his release. However, they have not explicitly stated what actions they want these entities to take. Despite the challenging circumstances, Bazoum remains in good spirits, demonstrating remarkable mental strength and faith.
In conclusion, the life of Niger’s president, Mohamed Bazoum, is in jeopardy as he remains confined and isolated in the basement of his presidential compound. The junta that overthrew him is denying him access to essential resources, potentially leading to his starvation. The international community, including the United States and the United Nations, has expressed grave concern for his well-being. The coup in Niger has drawn significant attention due to Bazoum’s democratic election and the United States’ investment in supporting Niger’s democracy and counterterrorism efforts. Efforts to restore democracy through diplomatic means have been unsuccessful, and regional partners, the U.S., and other allies are being appealed to for assistance. Bazoum’s strength and faith continue to sustain him in this trying time.