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Niger’s recent coup highlights weak leadership in Sahel Region, analyst warns

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In the wake of the recent coup in Niger, a prominent researcher from the University of South Africa has asserted that the turmoil is emblematic of a broader issue of feeble leadership prevailing across the Sahel region. As the nation grapples with the aftermath of the coup, which occurred nearly two weeks ago, the path towards reestablishing civilian rule seems fraught with challenges.

The ousted President, Mohamed Bazoum, who has remained conspicuously silent since the takeover, finds himself at odds with Gen. Abdourahmane Tchiani, the leader of the military junta that orchestrated the coup. Gen. Tchiani has defended his actions as necessary for safeguarding the nation’s security and has called on Nigeriens to protect the country from any foreign interference.

Sipho Mantula, a respected researcher based at the University of South Africa in Johannesburg, contends that this power struggle between Bazoum and Tchiani mirrors the broader issue of inadequate leadership pervasive in the Sahel region. Mantula observed, “If you look at these two characters, it also characterizes the weak leadership, the deficit of leadership in the Sahel region, where you have a civilian leader failing and you have a military leader who wants to take power.”

Mantula emphasized the strained relationship between Bazoum and Tchiani as a significant backdrop to the ongoing conflict, a viewpoint supported by a report from the International Crisis Group. The report suggested that Bazoum had been preparing to remove Tchiani from his position prior to the coup. Mantula further noted a concerning pattern in the Sahel region, wherein young military leaders often ascend to power following their proximity to the presidency, raising questions about the restoration of civilian rule.

Reflecting on the broader implications of military coups in Africa, Mantula pondered whether the continent was redefining its democratic norms through such actions. He questioned whether external democratic principles from countries like Germany, France, and the U.S. were influencing African politics and highlighted the necessity of maintaining clear boundaries between the military and civilian leadership.

As the political crisis unfolds, leaders from the West Africa regional bloc have announced plans to convene later this week to deliberate on the appropriate course of action. Gen. Tchiani’s junta has defied calls to reinstate President Bazoum, prompting regional discussions about the way forward. Against this backdrop, Niger’s military has also taken the measure of closing the nation’s airspace, citing concerns of potential foreign intervention. The events in Niger continue to resonate as both a domestic challenge and a reflection of broader regional dynamics.

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