Niger, a country that rarely makes headlines, experienced a seismic shift on the 26th of July. Whispers of a coup at the presidential palace began to circulate, prompting me to spring into action, reaching out to contacts in an attempt to untangle the truth.
The wait for confirmation was short-lived. That very night, the chief of the presidential guard announced that President Mohamed Bazoum was placed under “house arrest.” The democratically elected leader had been unseated. Within two days, Gen Abdourahmane Tchiani declared himself the new head of the nation.
The ensuing fortnight was marked by sleepless nights. The entire BBC wanted insights, but communication hurdles persisted.
Gradually, the mood on the streets began to morph. The military junta and its supporters adopted an unwavering stance: “You’re either with us or against us.”
As the BBC meticulously covered the convoluted twists and turns, incorporating the responses of the Ecowas regional bloc and Western nations, the atmosphere turned sour. I remained committed to my duty, striving to report objectively on unfolding events.
However, some of our audience in Niger solely sought information that echoed their viewpoints. Labels like “pro-Russia,” “pro-Tchiani,” and “anti-French” emerged, oversimplifying matters but thrusting me into the limelight.
Social media trolling swiftly escalated, followed by spiteful phone calls. The military junta hinted at expelling all “foreign” media. Venturing onto the streets of the capital, Niamey, to cover pro-Tchiani demonstrations became too perilous.
As my professional duties grew more challenging, so did life in general. Power shortages are now routine, courtesy of Nigeria’s reduced supply. Charging my laptop and phone, essential for work, is a daily struggle fraught with failures. These may seem like “first-world problems,” yet if I’m unable to fulfill my role, how will people stay informed?
Food scarcity is compounded by the Ecowas economic blockade. Struggling citizens are inclined to apportion blame. Our finances are dwindling, a dire predicament in this cash-based economy where day-to-day sustenance is paramount. The withdrawal cap now stands at 50,000 CFA (approximately $83; £64), a seemingly substantial amount that pales in comparison to soaring prices.
Engaging in grocery shopping requires discretion. The once-present joy and laughter on the streets have evaporated. The coup dominates conversations, although only one perspective is permitted to steer the discourse.
Publicly challenging the coup invites violence or property intrusion. The specter of arrest by the military junta hangs over me. This disquiet keeps me awake, yet I’ve taken precautions.
At home, I lock every door, refusing entry to all. It’s a semblance of the life I knew, but I’m committed to sharing my nation’s narrative with the world.