Niger’s ousted President Mohamed Bazoum recently made an audacious attempt to escape from custody, according to the military government in Niger.
Since a coup staged by members of his presidential guard in late July, Mr. Bazoum has been under house arrest. However, he and his family, along with their cooks and security personnel, planned a daring escape in the middle of the night. The plan involved fleeing on helicopters, but fortunately, it was foiled by the military.
The attempted escape took place at around 03:00 on Thursday, as announced by military spokesman Amadou Abdramane on state television. “The ousted President Mohamed Bazoum and his family, his two cooks, and two security elements tried to escape from his place of detention,” Abdramane revealed. Despite their efforts, the escape bid ultimately failed, and the authorities apprehended “the main actors and some of the accomplices.”
The plan to free the former president was elaborate and calculated. After evading their captors, Bazoum and his group intended to seek refuge in a hideout situated on the outskirts of the capital city, Niamey. From there, they had planned to take helicopters “belonging to a foreign power” in the direction of neighboring Nigeria. Military spokesman Abdramane condemned Bazoum’s “irresponsible attitude” during the foiled escape attempt.
This incident sheds light on Niger’s unstable political climate. The country is located in the Sahel region, an area notorious for its political unrest. The Sahel stretches across semi-arid land from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea, just south of the Sahara Desert. With pockets of jihadist activity and a history of military regimes, the region faces numerous challenges in maintaining stability and democratic governance.
Mr. Bazoum’s attempted escape highlights the ongoing struggle for power and control in Niger. Since the coup, the military government has been working to establish order and stability. However, it appears that the ousted president and his supporters remain defiant, seeking to resist the new regime’s authority.
In the neighboring countries of Burkina Faso and Mali, a challenging situation persists due to an Islamist insurgency and the increasing influence of Russia in the broader Sahel region through its mercenary group Wagner.
It is regrettable to note that Mr. Bazoum has declined to formally resign from his position.
Despite his unfortunate captivity, Mr. Bazoum managed to convey his message through an article published in The Washington Post, wherein he highlighted his status as a hostage and emphasized the potentially devastating consequences of the coup for our country, our region, and the global community.
In response to Mr. Bazoum’s overthrow, President Joe Biden of the United States promptly called for his immediate release, emphasizing the importance of safeguarding Niger’s hard-earned democracy.
This call from President Biden came after the expiration of a deadline set by Ecowas, a regional power bloc comprising West African states, for the coup leaders to step down.
Regrettably, the junta has chosen to disregard these demands for the release of the president, despite the potential consequences.
It is disheartening to learn that Mr. Bazoum’s party and family members have reported his lack of access to basic necessities such as running water, electricity, and fresh supplies.
Efforts to address this situation and restore stability in the region remain a priority for the international community.
The fact that Mr. Bazoum planned such an elaborate escape demonstrates the extent to which he is willing to fight for his freedom and influence. The involvement of his family, two cooks, and security personnel further underscores the determination of this faction to stand against the military government. It is unclear what consequences await those involved, including the ousted president himself.