Calm has returned to Niger’s capital Niamey after heavy gunfire was reported meters away from the presidential palace, just two days ahead of the official inauguration of President-Elect Mohamed Bazoum, according to Reuters news agency.
Reports say the gunfire started early this Wednesday morning, around 3:00 am local time, and lasted for close to 30 minutes. No casualty has been reported so far following the incident by Niger’s government.
Actuniger.com, an online news platform, published a video in which gunfire could be seen coming from the dark, but the location from where the gunfire was coming from could not be independently verified.
No group has officially taken responsibility for the attack. Some locals believed it was an attempted military coup since the election was disputed by the leading opposition party who enjoys military officials’ loyalty.
Mahamane Ousmane, the main opposition leader for the February election, rejected the election’s outcome and went to the constitutional court with a petition for the results to be canceled over irregularities. Still, the court dismissed the petition stating that the irregularities do not affect the election outcome.
It is not clear if Ousmane could be behind today’s attack since he had called for peaceful protest to pressure the government to rerun the election and ensure transparency in the process.
Niger has been a country with coups, and it is one of the poorest countries in Africa, which also is battling with terrorist and jihadists groups.
This is the first democratic transition that is taking place in the country since Niger had her independence from France, and the outgoing President Mahamadou Issoufou was awarded the Mo Ibrahim peace prize for promoting democracy and ensuring peaceful transition in the West African nation.
Mahamadou Issoufou surprised many around the world when he refused to thwart the constitution to seek a third mandate, as the case has often been with leaders in Africa, especially countries colonized by France. He respected the two-term mandate instituted by the country’s parliament and encouraged leaders across Africa to respect the constitution.