Who is General Tchiani? The Shadowy Army Veteran Who Seized Power In Niger

General Abdourahamane Tchiani, the head of Niger’s formidable presidential guard who assumed control during a military coup, is an army veteran who has put down previous uprisings in the restive West African country.

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Tchiani, 59, has avoided the spotlight despite a remarkable military career that saw him command the elite 700-member unit from 2011 to the present.

“He is not well known outside military circles. He is a man in the background, powerful,” said Ibrahim Yahaya Ibrahim, a researcher with the International Crisis Group think tank.

Tchiani declared himself president on Friday, following a takeover that began on Wednesday, when his presidential guards seized President Mohamed Bazoum and imprisoned him in the presidential palace.

Niger is an impoverished country with massive uranium reserves. Since its independence from France in 1960, it has had four coups and several unsuccessful putsch attempts, and it is currently engulfed in jihadist warfare, as are its neighbors.

Bazoum, a major Western ally in the war against militancy in Sub-Saharan Africa, was the first elected leader to succeed another since the country’s independence.

Niger’s President Mohamed Bazoum


Tchiani is a close associate of Bazoum’s predecessor, former President Mahamadou Issoufou, who named him as commander of the presidential guards in 2011.

Bazoum retained him after succeeding Issoufou, who served two terms, but ties between them have worsened in recent months, according to individuals close to Bazoum.

According to AFP, Bazoum was considering replacing Tchiani as chief of the presidential guard.

Meanwhile, Tchiani began avoiding the president’s “official ceremonies and activities” and sent his deputy Colonel Ibroh Amadou Bacharou, also a member of the new junta, to represent him, according to a source close to Bazoum.

‘Brave’ And ‘Popular’

Another source close to the deposed leader stated Tchiani’s replacement would be determined this month during a cabinet meeting.

Tchiani comes from Filingue, an arid region around 200 kilometers (125 miles) northwest of Niamey.

He has served in United Nations and West African regional bloc ECOWAS missions in Ivory Coast and Sudan.

Filingue is located in the hazardous Tillaberi region, which has been periodically assaulted by rebels linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group, as well as jihadists from neighboring Nigeria, for nearly eight years.

According to the UN, there are approximately 150,000 internally displaced persons in the enormous territory, which is nearly the size of South Korea.

Tchiani’s critics say he is a controversial figure but those close to him describe him as “brave” and “popular”.

“How could he have led his men in the putsch if they didn’t have confidence in him?” said Issa Abdou, a figure in civil society.

Supporters of the Nigerien defence and security forces gather during a demonstration outside the national assembly in Niamey on July 27, 2023. The head of Niger’s armed forces on July 27, 2023 said he endorsed a declaration by troops who overnight announced they had taken power after detaining the country’s elected president, Mohamed Bazoum.

A government official said Tchiani, under Issoufou’s orders, had “transformed the presidential guard into a powerful machine equipped with sophisticated weapons”.

Tchiani has in the past quashed several coup bids, notably in 2021 and 2022.

“General Tiani is an officer who has proven himself on the ground,” said former soldier Amadou Bounty Diallo.

The new junta comprises senior officers, including Salifou Mody, the former chief of staff of the armed forces who was sacked in April.

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