A day after ousting and arresting democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum, one of the West's last allies in the Sahel, Niger's new military junta has elected its new leader. According to national television, Abdourahamane Tchiani is the African country's new strongman.
As reported by the African Press Agency (APA), Tchiani hails from Niger's western Tillaberi region, one of the army's main recruiting areas. Since 2011 he has been in command of the Presidential Guard - the military institution that started the uprising against Bazoum - thanks to his closeness to former president Mahamadou Issaoufou, who promoted him in rank and in 2018 made him a general.
Tchiani was considered one of Issaoufou's loyal men. In 2021 he led the unit that aborted a coup attempt shortly before Bazoum was sworn in after winning the election.
As Paul Melly, Niger expert at London-based think tank Chatham House, tells Al Jazeera, the president of the National Council for the Safeguarding of the Homeland - the name given to the group of military officers who orchestrated the coup - reportedly led the military uprising after rumours of Bazoum's possible ouster.
According to the analyst, Bazoum wanted to dissociate himself from the former Issaoufou presidency and position himself as "an independent man", which is why he sought a change in the Presidential Guard and the replacement of Tchiani. In fact, after the military coup leaders arrested Bazoum, there were negotiations between him and Tchiani, but ultimately to no avail.
The military's National Council for the Safeguarding of the Homeland argued for the mutiny on the basis of the "continuing deterioration of the security situation" and "poor economic and social governance", as did other coup leaders in the Sahel.
The international community has condemned the uprising and called for the immediate release of President Bazoum, who was able to speak with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and French President Emmanuel Macron. Bazoum told his French counterpart that the coup was not "definitive" and that there was a "way out". Paris also reported that Bazoum was in good health.
"The hard-won achievements will be safeguarded. All Nigerians who love democracy and freedom will see to it," Bazoum wrote on his Twitter account after his ouster was announced.