Niger’s coup was the culmination of months of acrimony between President Mohamed Bazoum and his chief guard over the leader’s attempts to emerge from the shadow of his predecessor, people familiar with the matter said.
Since taking over from his political godfather Mahamadou Issoufou in 2021, Bazoum had sought to stamp his authority on the West African country by sidelining a number of senior people in both the military and public administration.
That assertive drive became his Achilles heel.
When the head of his powerful presidential guard, General Abdourahamane Tiani, feared he was next for the chop, he turned on his boss, confident other military commanders would eventually fall in line, the people familiar with the matter said.
This account of how Niger’s coup unfolded is based on 15 interviews with Nigerien security officials, politicians, as well as current and former Western government officials.
Neither Tiani or Bazoum could be reached for comment. In his first address following the July 26 coup, Tiani said he had ousted the president for the good of the country.
Since coming to power, Bazoum had reinforced military cooperation with France and the United States, curbed the autonomy of Nigerien army commanders and launched anti-corruption programs that targeted some of Issoufou’s proteges, notably in the oil sector, making enemies in the process.
Tiani, who was head of Issoufou’s guard for a decade and helped thwart a coup days before Bazoum took over, stayed on in his role under the new president, commanding the most powerful and best-equipped force based in the capital Niamey.
But in recent months, Bazoum had curtailed the size of the presidential guard, which was about 700-strong at the time of the coup, and started to scrutinize its budget.
Keen to save his own skin, Tiani, a man who had worked his way up through the ranks and was named general by Issoufou, had sounded out a select few commanders about his coup plans to ensure other branches of the military would not oppose him, two people with knowledge of the coup plotter’s thinking said.
Reuters was unable to determine which commanders had been briefed by Tiani.
Tiani also waited until large numbers of troops had been dispatched from Niamey to Diffa, a 20-hour drive away on the southeastern fringes of Niger, to participate in Independence Day celebrations scheduled for Aug. 3, the two people said.