The UN Secretary-General António Guterres has strongly condemned an attempted power grab in the West African nation of Niger, following reports that the democratically elected president is being held by some of his own guards inside the official residence.
According to news reports, the officers seized President Mohamed Bazoum and blockaded his residence in the capital Niamey on Wednesday, leading the African Union Commission Chair, to describe their actions as “tantamount to an attempted coup d’etat” – although there have been no reports of gunfire, so far.
The would-be plotters have reportedly not gained support from other elements of the military or security forces but talks to secure the president’s release have been unsuccessful.
Moussa Faki condemned the military “acting in total betrayal of their republican duty”, urging the “felon soldiers” to return to their barracks.
The west Africa regional bloc ECOWAS also condemned the “attempted coup” calling on the officers holding the president to release him immediately.
In a short statement released by his Spokesperson, Mr. Guterres said he was following the evolving situation in Niger closely.
“He condemns in the strongest terms any effort to seize power by force and to undermine democratic governance, peace and stability in Niger.
“The Secretary-General calls on all actors involved to exercise restraint and to ensure the protection of constitutional order”, the statement read.
The neighbouring countries of Mali and Burkina Faso, have both experienced military coups in the past few years, in the wake of growing jihadist insurgencies which have destabilized the entire region.
There are two militant groups allied to both al-Qaeda and ISIL operating within Niger itself, one which crossed the border with Mali eight years ago, and the other from a base in northeast Nigeria.
The country has experienced four coups since Niger gained independence from France in 1960, the last occurring in 2010.