General Abdourahamane Tiani has emerged as the new strongman of Niger after the coup that overthrew elected President Mohamed Bazoum. As the head of the presidential guard since 2011, this 59-year-old soldier is not well-known on the public stage.
His close associates describe him as a “firm” and “courageous” leader who is particularly “popular” among the approximately 700 members of his unit.
He is described as discreet, but with a firm grip. General Abdourahamane Tiani, the head of the Nigerien presidential guard who initiated the fall of elected President Mohamed Bazoum, will now lead a country plagued by jihadist violence and poverty.
Until now, this 59-year-old military commander of the presidential guard has remained discreet on the public stage. He appeared on national TV on Friday, July 28, as the leader of the junta that seized power, despite the African Union’s call for them to “return to their barracks.”
“A very consensual figure” “He is not well-known outside of military circles, he does not have a prominent public presence. He is a powerful but not a very consensual figure,” describes Ibrahim Yahaya Ibrahim, researcher for the International Crisis Group, an NGO that works to prevent and resolve armed conflicts.
Known to be loyal to former President Mahamadou Issoufou, who appointed him as head of the presidential guard during his two terms from 2011 to 2021, Abdourahamane Tiani was reappointed to his position by Mohamed Bazoum, the successor of Mahamadou Issoufou, who was newly elected as president. However, according to close associates of President Bazoum contacted by AFP, relations between General Tiani and the head of state had deteriorated in recent months, as Mohamed Bazoum had expressed his desire to replace him as head of the guard.
“The general rarely attended official ceremonies and the President’s activities, often delegating to his deputy, Colonel Ibroh Amadou Bacharou, who is also a member of the new junta,” said a source close to the deposed president, speaking anonymously. “His replacement and a thorough restructuring of the presidential guard were supposed to be decided in a cabinet meeting on Thursday, July 27,” confided another close associate of Mohamed Bazoum.
“Controversial” within the army General Abdourahamane Tiani is from Filingué, a very arid and remote area about 200 km northeast of Niamey, in the Tillabéri region, which has been the scene of jihadist group attacks for years.
The new strongman of Niger has served several times in UN missions in Côte d’Ivoire, DR Congo, and Darfur (Sudan), as well as in a mission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Côte d’Ivoire.
His detractors say he is “controversial” within the army. But his close associates describe him as a “firm” and “courageous” leader who is particularly “popular” among the approximately 700 members of his unit. “How could he have led his troops in the coup if they did not trust him?” notes Issa Abdou, a civil society actor.
Thwarted coups “In accordance with the directives of Mahamadou Issoufou, he has transformed the presidential guard into a powerful force equipped with sophisticated weapons,” remarked a civil servant. According to authorities, General Abdourahamane Tiani has thwarted several coup attempts, particularly in 2021 and 2022. “General Tiani is an officer who has proven himself on the ground,” commented former soldier Amadou Bounty Diallo.
The new junta is led by high-ranking officers, some of whom have been identified by AFP as key figures in the Nigerien army, including General Salifou Mody, a former chief of staff of the Armed Forces who was dismissed in April. Some had already participated in previous coups in a country with a history marked by coups and attempts since its independence from France in 1960.