A few overseas sources are reporting that there is currently a coup underway in Niger. Forces – currently unidentified – are trying to forcibly remove the quasi-dictator Mamadou Tandja from power. It seems to be a coup d’état as opposed to a general uprising since smoke is reported to be coming from Tandja’s palace but there are no report of general violence beyond the normal “background noise” of Nigerian society.
Supposedly Tandja’s guardsmen are not doing well in defending their “President” and things look grim both Mamadou Tandja’s rule and, Given Sub-Saharan Africa’s politics, life.
From Ireland’s non-profit Public Service Broadcaster, RTÉ:
A coup attempt is under way in Niger with the country’s President Mamadou Tandja described by a senior French official is ‘not in a good position’.
Smoke was seen rising from Niger’s presidential palace in what an intelligence officer said was a coup attempt President Mamadou Tandja’s guardsmen were trying to put down.
President Tandja, ruler of the uranium exporting central African nation for a decade, has come under heavy domestic and international criticism for last year orchestrating a reshuffle of the constitution to entrench and extend his power.
He dissolved parliament and orchestrated a constitutional reform in 2009 that gave him added powers and extended his term beyond his second five-year mandate, which expired in December.
The constitutional referendum in August, condemned internationally and at home, eliminated many of the remaining checks on Tandja’s authority, abolished term limits, and gave him an initial three more years in power without an election.
The constitutional court declared that vote illegal, to which President Tandja responded by abolishing the court and replacing its members with his own appointees.
West Africa’s regional bloc suspended Niger in October and the US terminated trade benefits for the country in December.
Niger is one of the world’s leading producers of uranium. It produces around 7.5% of the world’s uranium, according to the World Nuclear Association.
As the cost of oil and fears over global warming have rekindled interest in nuclear energy, Niger has handed out over 130 prospecting licenses, most of which have been for uranium.
However, just 10% of these are currently active as the political uncertainty comes on top of a two-year revolt led by Tuareg nomads calling for greater autonomy for the north, and a larger slice of the revenues from natural resources.
I doubt that this will be more than throw away one liner mentioned en passant by the American MSM since they’re myopic, parochial, and currently seemingly afraid of mentioning African unrest out of fear of it somehow “tainting” the half African President Obama. Despite their silence though, this is a matter of international importance that we should be more than a little concerned about.
Niger is an oil exporting country and China buys a large portion of their annual production. Anything that destabilizes oil production in Nigeria will impact not only oil prices in general but China’s stance on such issues as sanctions against Iran and various other trade agreements.
Niger’s uranium resources are also very important to the world. Not only, in the wake of the AGW hype, has nuclear power production returned to being an acceptable idea across the world, but it’s quite conceivable that unrest in Nigeria will facilitate the illegal sale of uranium to rogue states seeking either nuclear weapons or “dirty bomb” materials such as North Korea and Iran, both of whom have limited and “constrained” domestic uranium mining operations.
And, of course, one only has to look at Somalia to see that civil unrest and the collapse of the government – however vile and despicable that government is – gives the Islamists a chance at gaining control of large swaths of territory.
On the other side of the equation, and equally deserving of media coverage, is the fact there is currently a coup underway to drive a vile and pernicious quasi-dictator from power in an African nation. This could well be cause for jubilation.
Currently Niger is sanctioned by the US and cutoff from relations with the rest of the West Africa’s regional bloc. A regime change could well, depending on what group of people is behind it, result in the normalization of relations between Nigeria and both the West and the rest of the West African nations.
Just don’t expect to hear much of from the American Media. As I said, for their own reasons they’re uninterested in reporting news from Africa. 🙁
UPDATE [February 18, 2010 4:45 PM EST]: Both the BBC and The Times in England are reporting that coup d’état in Niger was initially successful and that Mamadou Tandja and much of his cabinet are the custody of the opposition.
The Times further states that the coup was by disgruntled members of the Nigerien military came after the collapse of talks between Mamadou Tandja’s regime and the Opposition over a recently “adopted” referendum allowing President Tandja to hold power indefinitely.
And we finally have a US report on the issue. The Wall Street Journal posted an article about it. Say what you want about News Corporation but they’re global presence and coordinated efforts have their benefits.
UPDATE [February 19, 2010 6:45 AM EST]: The Daily Monitor in Uganda is reporting coup was led by Colonel Adamou Harouna and was aided by Colonel Djibril Hamidou, both officers in Niger’s military. While Colonel Harouna is previously unknown, Colonel Hamidou was the spokesman for the 1999 coup that removed a military ruler, Colonel Ibrahim Bare, and ushered in elections that sadly led to Mamadou Tandja becoming President of Niger.
Colonel Djibril Hamidou of Niger’s CSRD
The Guardian is reporting that the junta that seized power calls itself the Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy (CSRD) and has appointed squadron chief Salou Djibo as its and Niger’s leader.
What fighting there was is reported to have died out and there does not seem to be a strong likelihood of a counter-coup in the immediate future.