The Nigerian general who overthrew the president he was supposed to protect

The Nigerian general who overthrew the president he was supposed to protect

Written by Musa Aqsr and Bourimah Brothers

NIAMEY (Reuters) – In 2011, after two decades climbing the ranks of Niger’s army, Abderrahmane Tiane received one of the military’s greatest appointments: head of an elite unit set up to protect the president.

Last week, General Tianyi, used his position and manpower to do the opposite. President Muhammad Bazoum was imprisoned in the presidential palace and appeared on state television on Friday to declare himself head of state, confirming the seventh military coup in West and Central Africa in three years.

The soldiers seized power because of the continuing insecurity caused by a decade-long Islamist insurgency that has killed thousands of soldiers and civilians across the Sahel region, Tiane, 59, said, echoing the justifications of military leaders in neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso who also grabbed power. Since 2020.

“We cannot continue with the same methods proposed so far, because they risk witnessing the gradual and inevitable disappearance of our nation,” he said.

Insecurity was close to home for Tiane, born in 1964 in a small village in the Villingwe region in southwest Niger, which has seen some of the worst fighting, including an attack on a military base in 2021 that killed 89 soldiers.

He attended local schools before joining the army in 1985 where he was deployed around the country, including to the northern town of Agadez during a Tuareg uprising in the 1990s, according to a biography published by the new ruling military council.

The document says he received training in France, Morocco, Senegal and the United States, where he attended the School of International Security Affairs at Fort McNair in Washington, DC.

He served as Commander and Observer Overseas for Regional and United Nations Forces during conflicts in Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Sudan, receiving some of the country’s highest military honors.

Now, Tianni has become a central player overseeing the fate of a region of increasing Russian influence, and military juntas in Mali and Burkina Faso have expelled forces from France, the former colonial power. Regional powers threatened military intervention if he did not restore Bazoum to power within days.

Just last week, Niger, one of the world’s poorest countries, was seen as the West’s last ally in the region. Aid, investment and training poured in from the United States and the European Union. French and American forces are stationed there, though its future is now in doubt.

The speed of change in Niger is evident in Tiane’s biography. The document, seen by Reuters, was written apart from another last-minute update scribbled in fountain pen at the bottom of his job listing: “Chairman of the National Council for the Protection of the Homeland, Head of State, July 28, 2023.”

(Written by Amelia Sithole Mataris and Edward McAllister)

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