Niger junta names prime minister in latest show of defiance

Tuesday August 08 2023

A video frame grab image obtained by AFP from ORTN - Télé Sahel showing Colonel Major Amadou Abdramane, a Conseil national pour la sauvegarde de la patrie (CNSP) member, reading a statement on national television. The CNSP announced on national television the appointment of a new prime minister and a new head of the presidential guard on August 7, 2023. PHOTO | AFP


The Nigerien junta on Tuesday named a civilian prime minister as it continued to settle in power, defying a deadline issued by regional bloc Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) and other Western allies to revert to constitutional order.

General Abdourahmane Tchiani, head of the country's new military council, which kicked out the civilian government of President Mohammed Bazoum on July 26, 2023, on Tuesday named Mr Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine, as Prime Minister.

Zeine is the Country Director for the African Development Bank (AfDB) in neighbouring Chad.

The move came a day after a local seven-day ultimatum given by Ecowas for Niger to revert power to Bazoum elapsed.

Read: Ecowas, African Union play catch-up on Niger coup

And it came as the West African leaders scheduled an extra-ordinary meeting on the political crisis in Niger on Tuesday afternoon to discuss potential response.


Zaine, 58, had also served as economy and finance minister under President Mamadou Tandja, who led the country from 1999 to 2010. 

Zeine, who previously served at AfDB country manager in Ivory Coast and Gabon, is expected to lead consultations for the formation of a new government. 

The military toppled President Mohamed Bazoum, placed him under house arrest and suspended constitution.

But it has faced a barrage of pressure from the 14-member Ecowas and Western allies like the US and France. Yet it is supported by military governments of Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea who similarly toppled civilian leaders during the Covid-19 season.

Ecowas had given coup movers in Niger seven days to restore constitutional order with threats to intervene militarily.

Read: Military intervention in Niger 'last resort', Ecowas says

However, as this option proved ineffective, with the Nigerien junta promising to fight back, Ecowas was expected to announce a new set of steps on Tuesday.

Ecowas had already imposed some sanctions on Niger, nonetheless, including closure of land and air border, seizure of Niger’s assets and property in Ecowas financial institution. Niger responded by shutting own borders and airspace ostensibly to shield itself from possible military response from Ecowas.

Ecowas has not ruled out possible military intervention yet, as the regional bloc continues to get support from the US, UK, France and the European Union. But most of the troop deployment will have to get endorsement from respective parliaments, which hasn't happened.

The African Union (AU) had also given 15 days ultimatum to the military to release the civilian president and restore democracy. 

Meanwhile the US Acting Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland said on Monday that his country’s delegation to Niger was not able to meet with President Bacoum but spoke with him on phone. 

"We’ve talked to him on the phone, but we haven’t seen him as that was never granted. We also asked for some gestures of health and welfare; he is in a very difficult situation under virtual house arrest, along with his son and his wife.  I hope, over the coming period, the people responsible for the current situation will come back to those requests. We were not granted an opportunity to see the self-proclaimed president, Tchiani.  So, we were left to have to depend on Mr Barmou (General in the army) to make clear, again, what is at stake," Nuland said.

Read: US envoy meets Niger coup leaders but sees no headway

Tchiani who has failed to relinquish power and reinstall Bazoum by midnight of Sunday deadline of Ecowas, has also shut air space to all flights, apparently to stall air attack. 

"Any attempt to violate the country’s airspace would meet with an “energetic and immediate response,” a statement by the junta on Monday. 

The ruling National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP) said there had been a “pre-deployment in preparation for intervention” made by two Central African countries, without naming them. 

“Any state involved will be considered co-belligerent,” it warned. 

Thousands of coup supporters had gathered at the 30,000-seat Seyni Kountche Stadium on Sunday in the capital Niamey for solidarity rally.