“Niger, a key U.S. ally in Western Africa, is undergoing a political crisis that has raised questions about the United States’ role in fostering foreign militaries in the name of fighting terrorism.
On July 26, Niger’s presidential guards, headed by Gen. Abdourahmane Tchiani, detained Mohamed Bazoum, Niger’s democratically-elected president, and declared “an end to the regime that you know due to the deteriorating security situation and bad governance.” The new junta, officially titled the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland, consolidated its control by suspending the constitution, dissolving all government institutions, and closing Niger’s borders.”
“The U.S. struck a similar tune as ECOWAS and the E.U., condemning Bazoum’s overthrow and calling for the restoration of Niger’s democracy while also suspending partnered activities with the Nigerien military. “We strongly condemn any effort to detain or subvert the functioning of Niger’s democratically elected government, led by President Bazoum,” said U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan in a statement.
But unlike ECOWAS and the E.U., the U.S. has neglected to call the overthrow a “coup” to avoid the legal ramifications of that declaration. According to Section 7008 of the annual Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, the U.S. is prohibited from sending foreign aid “to the government of any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup d’état or decree,” with an exception if the aid “is in the national security interest of the United States.””
“The Biden administration’s reluctance to label the overthrow a coup is unsurprising considering the United States’ significant security commitment to Niger. Presently, Niger hosts 1,100 U.S. troops, an increase of 900 percent since 2013. Those troops train and support Nigerien soldiers and run a $110 million drone base, which the Nigerien junta has restricted. The U.S. has invested $158 million in arms sales and $122 million in security assistance to Niger since the Trump administration began.
“The U.S. has wanted to have a role in West Africa largely because of great power competition. Because of that, Niger is one of a few countries that receive a lot of U.S. military assistance,” says Jordan Cohen, a foreign policy analyst at the Cato Institute. “The U.S. is unlikely to call it a coup because once it does that, that assistance has to freeze.””
“”Maybe the new government tries to cozy up to China, in which case I think the U.S. probably does cut security aid, but if the military is going to continue working with the United States, everybody’s going to forget about this and the aid will continue,” suggests Cohen.
Egypt provides a model for a junta that remained in the good graces of the United States. After Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was overthrown by the military in 2013 (which the U.S. never officially called a coup), the Obama administration suspended “only a couple hundred million dollars in U.S. military aid” while still maintaining the majority of the aid. In 2015, the administration restored Egypt’s aid to fight the Islamic State.”
“It’s also not clear that U.S. security aid benefits regional security, given the tendency for the U.S. military to train future coup leaders. “The Niger coup marks yet another occasion in which U.S.-trained military personnel—the officers that we are educating and training—have sponsored or directly supported an antidemocratic coup,” noted Emma Ashford, a senior fellow with the Reimagining U.S. Grand Strategy program at the Stimson Center, in an interview with Foreign Policy. “These aren’t just low-level troops who’ve been trained in combat techniques. These are often coup leaders, the cream of the crop of foreign militaries, trained here in the United States at our top service academies.”
“Part of what the U.S. spending on security assistance has done is fund hundreds of billions into the security forces, and that has contributed to this balance of powers in these governments,” adds Savell. “They have essentially given both military and security forces more power and more clout in comparison to other parts of the government.””
“Gen. Abdourahamane Tchiani, the head of Niger’s presidential guard, with other members of Niger’s armed forces, on Friday declared himself head of a transitional government he called “the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland,” while international leaders and organizations including the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) strongly condemned the coup.”
“It’s the fifth successful military coup in Niger since its independence from France in 1960. A series of coups has toppled the governments of several African countries over the past three years, but Niger is a bit of an outlier among its neighbors, particularly due to the vociferous support Bazoum’s government has enjoyed. Though Niger, like many other West African nations, had suffered from poor economic growth and stunted democratic and public institutions, Bazoum’s tenure produced improvements in education and public health, as well as the security and economic outlooks compared with neighbors like Mali and Burkina Faso.”
“Tchiani’s claim to power rests on the idea that Bazoum’s government had failed to deal with the violent Islamist extremism that has festered in the region over the past decade. That claim has driven coups elsewhere in the region, such as Mali. Military leaders can present themselves as a strong security alternative in unstable and violent nations, but in the case of Niger, the security situation was actually improving, especially in relation to its neighbors in the Sahel region — the band of north-central Africa stretching from northern Senegal to Sudan.”
“Bazoum had reportedly tried to force Tchiani into retirement, as Daniel Eizenga, a research fellow at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, points out. “The coup justifications have no foundation to stand on in Niger,” Eizenga said, adding that the power grab seems to be due to “the egotistical motivations of this individual.”
Indeed, Tchiani did not initially have the full support of the armed forces, though he has since commandeered the endorsement of some of Niger’s military leaders. Civilian protests immediately after Tchiani’s takeover insisted that Bazoum be returned to office; however, as Eizenga told Vox, those protests were violently suppressed by the presidential guard, Tchiani’s unit, creating a “chilling effect” against further civilian protest.”
“Progressives — and other members of Thailand’s pro-democracy opposition parties — scored a stunning victory in the country’s elections.., dealing a major blow to military-backed incumbents. Their overwhelming success, which came as a shock to political observers of the region, indicated that Thai voters are interested in a change from the current military-led regime and sent a significant message in favor of a more representative government.
The progressive Move Forward Party, led by Pita Limjaroenrat, is projected to win 151 seats in the House — the highest of any group — while the populist opposition party Pheu Thai, aligned with former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, will likely win 141 seats. Collectively, the two parties will now hold at least 292 of 500 seats in the House.”
“The military has long had a hold on Thai politics, a grip only strengthened by military coups in 2006 and 2014. That latter coup was led by current Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who ushered in a new constitution that gave the military unprecedented power over government. One of those post-coup reforms threatens Move Forward’s coalition: 376 members of parliament are needed to elect a new prime minister, and the 250-person Senate was appointed by the military.
Move Forward said Monday that several parties have agreed to join its governing coalition, giving it control of 309 of parliament’s 500 seats. That leaves Pita Limjaroenrat 67 votes short of the majority needed to become prime minister. It’s unclear whether the Senate will work to cobble together a military-aligned minority government, or split its support between the two factions.”
“since its independence in 1956, Sudan has undergone the highest number of attempted coups of any African nation, the New York times reported Saturday. That kind of entrenched instability tends to breed further coups”
“The plot originated out of a movement called the Reichsbürger — literally, “Reich citizens.” They believe that every German state since World War I has been illegitimate, a corporation rather than an authentic government, and thus feel entitled to ignore its laws. It’s not the first time the group has been implicated in a violent incident. In 2016, one alleged member killed a Bavarian policeman; in 2020, Reichsbürger adherents participated in an attempt to storm the German capitol during a protest against Covid restrictions. But a sizable armed cell plotting a coup takes the dalliance with violence to a whole new level (even though Heinrich isn’t much of a prince).”
“What [the Reichsbürger] are saying is the last valid German state was under the Kaiser, basically an aristocratic form of government. Every German state that came into existence after that is invalid for different reasons, but they’re all invalid. They’re all illegitimate. Basically, what they are trying to recreate, what they are trying to go back to, is essentially a monarchical system — the monarchy [that] ended in Germany with the defeat in World War I.
As a consequence, they do sometimes attract these failed aristocrats who are still aggrieved about the end of the monarchy over 100 years ago. I think it makes sense, from their ideological point of view, to say, “The new head of state has to be some kind of prince, has to be some sort of person with an aristocratic line.””
“The German security agencies only really got interested in this phenomenon of the Reichsbürger, or sovereign citizens, in 2016 — [when] a policeman was killed in Bavaria because they wanted to search the property of a supporter of the movement. Suddenly, people started asking questions: Why was that policeman killed? Why did the guy have a weapon? What was that search about?
As a result of that, for the first time we discovered that there was such a thing as the sovereign citizen movement [in Germany]. Security agencies started digging, and at the beginning of 2016, they said, “They have a few hundred supporters.” Only two or three years later, they actually came to the conclusion that they were probably up to 20,000 supporters across the country.
That’s not because, in those three years, the number increased so much. It’s because no one had looked for them and categorized them as a separate category before. It became obvious that there was a whole movement that had existed beyond that, that hadn’t been looked at before.
Then [the pandemic] came. The lockdowns and the rules around masks and vaccinations were, of course, a complete boon for the movement.”
“the second most used language in QAnon chat rooms on Telegram is German. The second most translated language of QAnon videos and documents is German. I myself follow a lot of German QAnon Telegram channels; a lot of people seem to be very fascinated by it.
I don’t know of any personal, physical connections between leaders of the movements, but there certainly seems to be a lot of inspiration. Once they understand and accept that a lot of this comes out of an American context, they are trying to find ways to translate it into a German context.
In August 2020, there was an attempt to storm the Reichstag, the German parliament. It was in the context of a demonstration — 100,000 people in the streets of Berlin. Some of these Reichsbürger were actually trying to enter the building, just like the Capitol [on January 6]. They basically afterward said that they’d been convinced that Donald Trump was in town, that he’d secretly flown to Berlin in order to liberate Germany. This was one of those rumors that was spread on QAnon follower Telegrams.”
” We have a very fixed idea of what a far-right extremist looks like, because of our history. A far-right extremist is a neo-Nazi; anything that doesn’t fit into that box of neo-Nazi or fascist, we have problems with, and we don’t recognize. Up until they [the Reichsbürger] killed that policeman in Bavaria, most intelligence agencies basically had them under the category of nutcases, crazies. But they had their own far-right, albeit separate, ideology — a very strange ideology.”
“Sudan’s move toward democracy is in peril, after the military seized control of the country’s transitional government in a coup.
The country’s democratic project began just two years ago, after Sudan’s longtime dictator Omar al-Bashir was ousted amid mass protests in 2019. Civil society and protest leaders and the military ultimately reached a power-sharing arrangement that put both in charge of the country with the commitment of transitioning to full civilian rule, which would lead to a new constitution and elections in 2023.
[The] coup has upended that entire endeavor, fracturing what was already a tenuous arrangement between the military and civilian factions and jeopardizing any gains made. Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, Sudan’s top general, orchestrated the power grab, detaining the civilian prime minister Abdalla Hamdok and other civilian leaders, and firing ambassadors who resisted the takeover.
But the coup also reignited resistance, as protesters returned to the streets in cities and towns across Sudan to denounce the military takeover. The Sudanese military shut down the internet, making it difficult to fully understand the scope of the resistance — and the security forces’ response to it — especially outside major cities like Khartoum. At least 170 people have been injured, and at least seven people killed in Monday’s protests, according to data compiled by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Some pro-democracy leaders have reportedly been detained.”
“Over the weekend, President Kais Saied fired the country’s prime minister and suspended Parliament in what his political opponents have called a coup. But he says the move was justified after thousands of Tunisians took to the streets in recent days to protest the government’s handling of the pandemic, which has deepened the country’s economic woes.
Supporters of the president cheered his ousting of Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and other government ministers, but those celebrations turned to clashes when those who opposed Saied’s moves also took to the streets to protest.
“One of the big question marks is: Is this a coup?” said Sarah Yerkes, a former State Department and Pentagon official and now a senior fellow in Carnegie’s Middle East Program who focuses on Tunisia. That’s a question a lot of people are asking right now, and it doesn’t actually have a straightforward answer, in part because democracy in Tunisia is still very new.”
“The president has, I would say, extralegally, or outside of normal legal channels, fired the prime minister. He is allowed to do that, although he has to consult with Parliament — but he also suspended Parliament. And so that is certainly not something he’s allowed to do.
He has fired other ministers, too. So he declared himself kind of the chief executive. He normally functions as the head of state, and then the prime minister is the head of government. The president, in normal times, just has control over foreign affairs, defense, and national security. The prime minister oversees everything else. But now the president is overseeing everything.”
“When the president made the declaration, he said he was following Tunisia’s Constitution. There is this article, Article 80, that allows the president to take on emergency powers. But I’ve been following various Tunisian legal experts on social media and through other conversations, and it seems that Article 80 does not really apply to how the president carried things out.”