It’s unclear what’s going on, but apparently there’s been a military coup d’état in the West African nation of Niger:
Soldiers in Niger assaulted the presidential palace in a coup attempt on Thursday while the government was meeting inside, according to officials and diplomats.
After a day of gunfire, explosions and nonstop military music on the radio in Niger’s capital, Niamey, the whereabouts of the president, Mamadou Tandja, remained unknown.
“There’s been a coup d’état,” said Boureima Soumana Sory Diallo, a high official at the state media regulatory agency under Mr. Tandja.
“I don’t know where he is,” Mr. Diallo said of the president. “They told us he has been taken by the soldiers.”
A spokesman for the American Embassy in Niamey, Robert Tate, said, “We’ve gotten several unconfirmed reports that he is in the custody of the insurgents.”
Late Thursday, a colonel who claimed to represent the coup leaders said on state media that they had decided to suspend the Constitution and dissolve the nation’s institutions, news agencies reported.
The president had allegedly been taking unpopular anti-democratic actions of late, so the military may claim to be protecting democracy. Food shortages due to US and regional sanctions had destabilized the government, along with opposition protests. It’s unclear how this development might affect the security of the country’s large uranium deposits, if at all.
We have to be careful here in analyzing the situation because as we saw with the 2009 Honduras coup, the pro-coup people tend to spin the situation to claim the democratically-elected leader was going to become a dictator without military intervention. I don’t know if there’s a possibility that some foreign powers might be backing this coup to gain control over the uranium mines, but there are often allegations of that sort of thing when military coups occur. I’ll look into it more.
This post originally appeared on Starboard Broadside.