Niger is the latest country in the Sahel region of northwest Africa to experience a military coup.

Since Mali’s armed takeover in August 2020, several neighbouring countries have seen a similar pattern emerge.

Elected officials are overthrown amid growing dissatisfaction with the political regime, which is often accused of corruption and failing to fend off Islamic extremist groups operating in the region.

Coup leaders then promise to implement a new, more democratic regime, but this process gets delayed and tensions remain unresolved.

In some countries, this has resulted in further coups and instability, which leaves them vulnerable to hostile forces, including both the Jihadist groups and Russian mercenaries.

Here Sky News looks at the timeline of events across the Sahel belt in recent years and what the consequences have been.

Why the Sahel?

More on Niger

The Sahel region of African nations below the Sahara Desert include Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger and Guinea.

They are some of the poorest in the world and vulnerable to both political instability and climate change.

Since French colonial rule ended in the 1960s and democratic regimes were instated for the first time, France has maintained a military presence there.

But in the last decade Jihadist groups linked to al-Qaeda and Islamic State have been growing in power and influence from northern Mali into neighbouring states.

Eager to minimise instability and Islamist influence, France and other Western nations have invested heavily in security – using it as a base for the wider fight against terrorism in the region.

But after France withdrew troops from Mali in 2022, military leaders are moving away from their former Western allies and towards Russia – whose Wagner mercenary group now operates throughout the belt.


Last week Niger’s President Mohamed Bazoum was ousted from power by the military, led by General Abdourahmane Tchiani.

President Mohamed Bazoum

Mr Bazoum was the first democratically-elected leader in Niger since the end of French colonial rule in 1960.

He was overthrown after soldiers surrounded the presidential palace in the capital Niamey. They claimed they wanted to “put an end to the regime” amid a “deteriorating security situation and bad governance”.

The Junta has since closed all borders and imposed a curfew.

Western allies have condemned the coup, fearing the armed forces will move away from their backing and increasingly towards Moscow.

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Head of coup becomes Niger’s leader


The summer of 2020 saw a wave of protests grip Mali.

Demonstrators were angry with the government’s failure to control fighting between warring factions in the north and south of the country, allegations of corruption and mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic.

On 18 August the Malian Armed Forces staged a mutiny.

Soldiers led by Colonel Assimi Goita overthrew a military base in the town of Kati before trucks closed in on the capital of Bamako.

President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and other government officials were detained by the group of military leaders who called themselves the National Committee for the Salvation of the People.

On 12 September they agreed to an 18-month timeframe for civilian rule being reintroduced.

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Niger coup backers wave Russian flags

But seven months into the transition process in May 2021 the interim president and prime minister were ousted in a second coup and Col Goita was made president of the transitional government.

France withdrew its troops from Mali in the summer of 2022. In June this year, a referendum on a new constitution designed to strengthen presidential powers was held, with 97% voting in favour.

Critics say the vote was designed to keep Col Goita and his team in power beyond the elections – currently scheduled for February 2024.

Wagner mercenaries in Mali. Pic: AP

Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso saw two coups in just eight months last year.

On 24 January 2022, soldiers appeared on national TV to say they had seized power from democratically-elected President Roch Marc Christian Kabore.

Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba was sworn in as his replacement on 16 February.

But on 30 September soldiers ousted him and instead named Captain Ibrahim Traore as transitional president.

At the same time, there was growing discontent with France’s ongoing presence in the country.

Protesters attacked symbols of the former colonial power.

Captain Traore’s national assembly was formed largely of army officers who promised democratic elections and the return of civilian power by July 2024.

But at the beginning of this year, the president ousted French troops and instead looked to Russia, which has been operating in Mali, for support in fending off Islamist advances.

Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Burkina Faso President Ibrahim Traore in Saint Petersburg this year


Following three decades of autocratic rule under President Omar al-Bashir, in 2019 the military overthrew him and imposed the Transitional Military Council to oversee a so-called peaceful transition of power.

This was led by transitional prime minister Abdalla Hamdok and a power-sharing body of military officers and civilians.

But in October 2021, fighting between the army and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) saw the prime minister and his family detained and the power-sharing agreement abandoned.

The coup was led by General Abdel Fattah al-Buhran.

Since then fighting in Sudan has resulted in hundreds of deaths with no clear path to a democratic resolution.

Earlier this year al-Buhran accused the head of the RSF, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, of an attempted coup.

Read more:
Inside refugee camps as thousands flee Sudan


Chad remains under military rule since its long-time president Idriss Deby was killed in fighting against rebels in the north of the country in April 2021.

His son, General Mahamat Idriss Deby, now leads the country as the interim head-of-state, a move that goes against the country’s constitution.

He promised a transition to democracy within 18 months.

But when that period elapsed in autumn 2022, it was extended by another two years, triggering protests and a subsequent military crackdown.

Ousted Niger leader Mohamed Bazoum (R) with the late Mahamat Idriss Deby of chad (L). Pic: Mahamat Idriss Deby/Facebook


Guinea’s coup began on 5 September 2021 when President Alpha Conde was overthrown by the leader of the army Colonel Mamady Doumbouya.

Justifying the decision, the former French legionnaire said the army had no choice but to take action against corruption, human rights abuses and economic errors under President Conde.

The government and constitution were dissolved and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) gave an initial deadline of 25 April for reinstating civilian rule.

Guinea’s junta is under sanctions while the National Transition Council says it is working to its 39-month deadline.

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