Find out who General Omar Tchiani, the reported brain behind the coup in Niger is
After the removal of Niger’s President Mohamed Bazoum from power on Wednesday, General Omar Tchiani, the commander of the presidential guards, has been identified as the alleged mastermind of the coup, according to local reports.
Tchiani’s special unit detained Bazoum within the presidential palace early on Wednesday, prompting regional leaders to organize a mediation mission to prevent a coup swiftly. Later in the day, a group of soldiers appeared on national television claiming to have taken control of the presidency.
Colonel-Major Amadou Abdramane, surrounded by nine uniformed men, made a statement on behalf of the group known as the National Council for the Safeguarding of the Country, declaring the suspension of all institutions, closure of land and air borders, and implementation of a curfew.
Although Tchiani did not appear on TV, he is widely believed to have had significant influence behind the scenes during the events of Wednesday.
The general, who is also reportedly named Abdourahmane, is not well-known, and there is limited information about him. He hails from the western region of Tillaberi in Niger, which is a significant recruitment area for the army.
Tchiani has been in charge of the presidential guards since 2015 and was a close ally of former President Mahamadou Issoufou, who led the country until 2021.
Interestingly, Tchiani led the unit that foiled an attempted coup in March 2021, when a military group tried to seize the presidential palace just days before President Bazoum’s inauguration. Despite this, Bazoum retained Tchiani as the head of the presidential guards, a specialized unit comprising around 2,000 soldiers.
The reasons behind Tchiani’s involvement in the coup are not clear. There have been rumours that President Bazoum had plans to dismiss him shortly before the coup.
It has been suggested that this may be due to Tchiani’s age, as he is 62, or potential discontent among certain factions of the army, including within the presidential guards. These speculations, however, have not been independently verified.
Another possible motive, according to Niger expert Paul Melly from the think tank Chatham House, is that Bazoum wanted to establish his own identity separate from Issoufou’s presidency by making changes to the composition of the presidential guards, which would involve replacing Tchiani.
On Wednesday, following the detention of President Bazoum by Tchiani’s soldiers, there were discussions between the two individuals. However, these negotiations did not lead to any successful outcomes.
Reports suggest that Tchiani might be designated as the leader of a transitional military council in a matter of hours. Still, this claim has not been independently confirmed.
There is confusion surrounding the situation in Niamey. The recent coup by the Armed Forces may give General Tchiani more influence. It is not uncommon for leaders of the Presidential Guard to attempt to seize power in Niger, as seen with Ibrahim Baré Mainassara and General Daouda Malam Wanké in the past.
As news of the coup in Niger spread, some politicians urged the population to reject the military takeover. Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hassoumi Massoudou, stated that they cannot accept the attempted coup and called on all Nigerien democratic patriots to stand against it.
He also called for the president’s release and mentioned ongoing talks. A source close to the president confirmed that he has not resigned and is safe in his residence. Support for President Bazoum appears strong among the population and political parties.
A group of Nigerien political groups described the situation as “suicidal and anti-republican madness” and emphasized the importance of focusing on the country’s challenges rather than being distracted by the coup.