What’s Happening in Niger? The Implications of the July 2023 Niger Coup

The Niger coup is a sobering reminder of West Africa’s vulnerability to military intervention and the continuous struggle for democratic consolidation. The question now is not only about Niger’s future but also about the future of democratic governance in West Africa.

The political upheaval in Niger Republic arrived in the form of a military coup on 26 July, an all-too-familiar sight for the region. President Mohamed Bazoum was ousted from office by a military contingent led by General Abdourahamane Tchiani. This sequence of events threatens to undermine an already delicate geopolitical balance in the Sahel and West Africa, areas critical for regional and international security.

Niger’s stability is crucial not only for Nigeriens but also for preventing the regional expansion of jihadist groups, including the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara and Boko Haram. These groups exploit political chaos to intensify their activities, which could further destabilize the already fragile Sahel region and potentially spill over into West Africa. How Niger’s political crisis unfolds will likely impact the broader region’s stability, potentially affecting migration trends, transnational terrorism and regional democratic norms.

The Niger coup is a sobering reminder of West Africa’s vulnerability to military intervention and the continuous struggle for democratic consolidation. The question now is not only about Niger’s future but also about the future of democratic governance in West Africa.


Niger’s military coup did not occur in a vacuum. A series of destabilizing factors, including socio-economic issues, political volatility and security concerns have all contributed to the atmosphere of discontent that enabled the military intervention.

The immediate trigger for the coup seems to be in response to the in the country. The coup follows a troubling trend in Niger’s political history, which has seen more than it fair share of coups. This pattern highlights a deeper malaise: the military’s continued involvement in politics and governance, which undermines democratic consolidation.

Economically, despite its significant uranium deposits, Niger has struggled to capitalize on these resources for its socio-economic development. Worldwide Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2022 was at about $12,663 per capita. GDP in Niger, on the other hand, was $533 per capita, or $13.97 billion for the whole country. Corruption and poor governance have only contributed to economic mismanagement, fanning public discontent and providing further grounds for the coup.

The coup in Niger adds to the precarious stability of the Sahel region, which is already grappling with various political and security challenges. The ripple effects could reverberate through neighbouring countries, potentially sparking further coups or destabilizing actions.


The coup in Niger has set off alarm bells across the Sahel. The political instability may provide a vacuum for insurgent groups to exploit, potentially leading to an uptick in violence in the region. History shows that political instability can serve as fertile ground for extremism. Approximately 40 per cent of all violent activity by Islamist groups in Africa occurs in the Sahel—more than any other African region. The volatility could see jihadist groups capitalizing on the chaos to expand their reach and influence. The coup might impact the effectiveness of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MJTF) in the Lake Chad Basin. With Niger distracted by internal political upheaval, its contributions to the MJTF could wane, potentially giving room for an increase in cross-border militant activities.

The coup in Niger does not bode well for democracy in West Africa. It adds to a worrying pattern of military takeovers that have recently taken place in the region, including in Mali in 2021 and Burkina Faso in 2022, presenting a significant setback for democratic progress. By toppling a democratically elected government, the coup leaders have flouted constitutional order. If not addressed robustly by regional bodies and the international community, this could undermine the rule of law and encourage future coups.

Like Niger, both Mali and Burkina Faso have experienced recent coups that have derailed their democratic paths. The shared factors leading to these takeovers—including socio-economic unrest, insecurity and allegations of government corruption—suggest broader regional challenges to democracy that must be confronted.

The coup in Niger is a defining moment for the Sahel and West Africa. The actions taken now to restore democratic governance, stabilize the security situation and address the underlying causes of discontent will set the course for the region’s future. Regional bodies and international partners have a critical role to play. Strong diplomatic efforts, sanctions and support for democratic processes will be essential to reversing the coup’s effects and preventing further erosion of democracy in the region. The response from the international community is varied with its implications still uncertain.


In the aftermath of the coup, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU) have been swift in expressing their disapproval. Both bodies have condemned the military takeover, echoing a shared commitment to democratic governance in the region.

From the US to the EU, the international community has voiced concern over the coup, reflecting a broader consensus on the need to uphold democratic principles. The response underscores the global relevance of Niger’s political stability and its implications for the Sahel and West Africa.

A range of punitive measures from ECOWAS and international actors is on the table to pressure the coup leaders. Sanctions, suspension from regional bodies, intervention and cessation of financial aid are some of the options on the table. However, implementation and success of these initiatives will depend on diplomatic negotiations and the resolve of international actors to enforce these measures.

While the international community and regional bodies may be united in condemning the coup, their ability to effect change will depend on bridging the gap between rhetoric and action. This involves moving beyond statements to implementing concrete actions that incentivise a return to constitutional order.

Mediation could play a crucial role in resolving the crisis. Regional leaders, supported by international partners, could broker negotiations between the coup leaders and civil society to pave the way for the restoration of democracy. ECOWAS is sending, among others the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Abubakar, who wields enormous influence among the Muslim community within and outside Niger. The handling of the coup will set a precedent for responses to similar crises in the region. If the international community’s response is seen as effective, it could deter future coups. Conversely, a weak or indecisive response could embolden potential coup plotters.

While addressing the immediate crisis is crucial, it’s equally important for international actors to address the root causes of the coup. This includes tackling socio-economic issues, enhancing good governance and supporting inclusive political processes to build more resilient democratic institutions in the region.


In refocusing on the situation on the ground, there has been a surge in pro-coup protests across Niger, indicative of a significant section of the population aligning with the military regime. This support may stem from disillusionment with the previous administration and the hopes that the military will deliver on promises of stability and better governance.

The popularity of these protests reveals a more complex narrative surrounding military coups in West Africa. Many citizens, frustrated with the slow pace of change and persistent socio-economic problems, may view military interventions as a necessary evil. However, this sentiment may exacerbate the potential for civil unrest, especially if expectations aren’t met.

Amidst the coup, there has been a rise in anti-French sentiment. Nothing encapsulates this sentiment better than Burkina Faso’s Ibrahim Traore’s statement expressing, ‘A slave who cannot assume his own revolt does not deserve to be pitied.’ Military regimes, including Niger’s, often exploit such sentiments to rally public support and deflect criticism. France’s long history in the region and ongoing military presence have been points of contention and this discontent may serve to consolidate the regime’s power.

Conversely, the Russian private military company, the Wagner Group, is increasing its footprint in the Sahel, offering support to various African governments. Their involvement could bolster the new military regime in Niger, complicating the regional power dynamics and the international response to the coup. The handling of civil unrest, managing public sentiment and dealing with external actors like the Wagner Group will define the course of the crisis.


The fallout from the coup could manifest in several ways: an entrenched military regime, a protracted period of instability, or, ideally, a return to democratic governance. All scenarios carry significant implications for the region’s stability, making the international community’s response crucial.

A united front from ECOWAS, AU, EU and the US can exert significant pressure on the military regime. These organizations should coordinate sanctions and diplomatic efforts to push for the swift restoration of democratic governance.

Strengthening civil society and democratic institutions in Niger should be a priority. External partners should invest in capacity-building programmes that promote civic participation, political inclusion and good governance.

Amidst political crisis, economic stability is critical. International actors must balance sanctions with sustained aid, focusing on programmes that alleviate poverty, improve infrastructure and foster sustainable development.

Finally, understanding the underpinnings of recurring coups is essential. International partners should support initiatives that address socio-economic inequalities, political corruption and institutional weaknesses that contribute to political instability.

The response to the Niger coup will define the future trajectory of democratic governance in the region. Given the increasing number of military coups, regional and international actors must reaffirm their commitment to democratic norms and state sovereignty. This crisis presents a test for the global community’s commitment to democracy. A united, firm, yet empathetic approach could play a pivotal role in steering Niger and the wider region towards stability and democratic governance.

Ultimately, the goal is not just the resolution of the current crisis but the prevention of similar future events. Achieving this requires a long-term, holistic strategy that puts the welfare of Niger’s people and the principle of democratic governance at its core

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