Former Niger Rebel Launches Anti-Coup Movement

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A former rebel leader and politician in Niger has launched a movement opposing the military government that took power in a July 26 coup, a first sign of internal resistance to army rule in the strategically important Sahel country.

In a statement seen on Wednesday, Rhissa Ag Boula said his new Council of Resistance for the Republic (CRR) aims to reinstate overthrown President Mohamed Bazoum who has been in detention at his residence since the takeover.

“Niger is the victim of a tragedy orchestrated by people charged with protecting it,” the statement said.
Ag Boula’s statement said it supports ECOWAS and any other international actors seeking to restore constitutional order in Niger, adding that it would make itself available to the bloc for any useful purpose.

Another CRR member said several Nigerien political figures had joined the group but could not make their allegiance public for safety reasons.

Ag Boula played a leading role in uprisings by Tuaregs, a nomadic ethnic group present in Niger’s desert north, in the 1990s and 2000s. Like many former rebels, he was integrated into government under Bazoum and his predecessor Mahamadou Issoufou.

While the extent of support for the CRR is unclear, Ag Boula’s statement will worry the coup leaders given his influence among Tuaregs who control commerce and politics in much of the vast north. Support from Tuaregs would be key to securing the military government’s control beyond Niamey’s city limits.

The coup has already led to border and airspace closures that have cut off supplies of medicine and food, hampering humanitarian aid in one of the world’s poorest countries.

ECOWAS has said the use of force would be the last resort. The bloc’s defence chiefs have agreed on a possible military action plan, which heads of state will discuss at their summit on Thursday in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.

Niger currently hosts US, French, German and Italian troops under agreements made with the now-deposed civilian government.