According to President Mahamadou Issoufou, Niger’s government foiled an attempted coup on 17 December. Nine senior military officers were arrested for planning to use the nation’s air force to seize control ahead of the February 2016 presidential election. The political environment has been gradually deteriorating with a number of violent incidents, plotted by opponents who accuse the government of seeking a fraudulent re-election of the president. President Issoufou’s announcement of a foiled coup is very likely part of a strategy to get rid of military officers who sympathise with the opposition. Eliminating those individuals helps the government to diminish the risk of a military coup in 2016, knowing that Niger’s history is marked with multiple military takeovers. Moreover, opposition leader Hama Amadou – who intended to run for president - was arrested by the authorities in November after returning from more than a year of self-imposed exile in France.
Impact on country risk
Despite the fact that Niger is the world’s fourth largest producer of uranium and an important Western ally in the fight against Islamist militants in the Sahel, it remains one of the poorest countries in Africa. Lately the government has been struggling with falling uranium prices while climate-change-related wretchedness and a growing threat of Boko Haram across its southern border area, have raised popular discontent. Nevertheless, regardless of Niger’s gloomy economic and security picture and the numerous allegations of repression ahead of the vote, President Issoufou is still likely to be re-elected given its ongoing popularity and strategy of eliminating challengers. There is a high risk of intensified political violence around the February 2016 elections in the form of armed attacks, violent protests and riots answered by heavy-handed security force interventions.
Analyst: Louise Van Cauwenbergh, email@example.com