Niger’s coup: the role of former President Issoufou

Niger ,Sahara

Published on Wednesday, 23 August 2023 Back to articles

Former President Issoufou Mahamadou

Three weeks before the coup, Menas Associates’ Sahara Focus author had an unexpected and unarranged meeting with a couple of Nigeriens who are closely associated with President Mohamed Bazoum’s administration. The conversation soon turned to the so-called ‘Issoufou burden.’ As Sahara Focus, July 2023 explained, Mahamadou Issoufou (b.1952) had spent two terms as president: the first was relatively successful; the second far less so, being characterised poor governance and corruption scandals. The later included Issoufou’s alleged involvement in drugs trafficking, marital misalliances, and the placement of his own favourites — mostly incompetent and corrupt members of his own ruling Parti Nigerien pour la Democratie et le Socialisme (PNDS-Tarayya) — in key administrative positions. This included the appointment of his spoiled and corrupt son, Mahamane Sani Mahamadou Issoufou (a.k.a. Abba) (b.1983), as petroleum minister on 7 April 2021, five days after Bazoum was sworn in as president. The latter had soon realised Abba’s lack of skills, the damage he was doing to the oil sector, and his involvement at the heart of suspicions of embezzlement around several deals. 

When Bazoum was elected as the chosen successor of both Issoufou and the ruling party he was seen as the man to revitalise the Presidency and the administration with new economic plans and better governance. However, his first two years in office had been hampered by the dead hand of Issoufou’s legacy, which the former president had subsequently been using to further his own wealth, status and prestige as West Africa’s up-and-coming stateman on the international scene. According to reliable sources, he saw himself as a future UN Secretary General. 

In his first two years of his presidency, Bazoum had been discreetly trying, with only modest success, to ease this dead wood out of office, without upsetting the powerful Issoufou entourage and the ruling PNDS Taraya party. Even though we could not have foreseen the events of 26 July, our above mentioned discission focused on how Bazoum would have to accelerate the removal of the Issoufou ‘dead wood’ if he was to avoid his administration going the same way as that of his predecessor.

One of the placements whom Bazoum was attempting to remove was the Presidential Guard’s commandeer, General Abdourahamane Tchiani. Bazoum’s plan to announce his retirement on 26 July is believed by many to have triggered the rebellion. 

Now, with the benefit of almost a month’s hindsight, we can see how Tchiani had managed to muster support from others in the prospective firing line, and how further analysis has revealed Issoufou’s fingerprints all over the coup.

This excerpt is taken from Sahara Focus, our monthly intelligence report on the Sahara region. Click here to receive a free sample copy.

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