NIAMEY, 2 April 2021 – Niger’s president-elect Mohamed Bazoum has been sworn in at a ceremony in the capital, Niamey, making the country’s first democratic transfer of power.
Bazoum, 61, succeeds Mahamadou Issoufou, also 61, who is stepping down after a decade in power.
Last month, Issoufou won the $5 million cash award that comes with the 2020 Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, becoming only the sixth recipient of the award which recognizes and celebrates excellence in African leadership.
He has won praise not only for the democratic changing of the guard but also for his top economic achievement: bringing down poverty among Nigeriens from 48 percent to 40 percent over the last ten years.
Friday’s ceremony was the first time an elected Nigerien leader has handed power to another since the country won independence from France in 1960.
The ceremony held less than 48 hours after members of the presidential guard at dawn last Wednesday pushed back unidentified gunmen trying to seize power.
Hundreds of soldiers have been arrested in connection with the thwarted coup reportedly by parts of the country’s military.
Bazoum is a former interior minister.
He won over half the share of the vote in an election run-off last February.
His main rival, Mahamane Ousmane, who is a former president, has rejected the election result, alleging fraud.
Ousmane’s supporters have been blamed for riots immediately following the announcement of the election results and some observers fear that the parts of the military implicated in the foiled coup attempt may also be his supporters.
The United Nations ranks Niger as the world’s poorest nation on its development rankings which includes 189 countries.
Niger is fighting armed insurrection from jihadist militants who have killed an estimated 300 civilians in armed attacks ever since the beginning of this year.
Last month, 137 civilians were killed in the latest attacks by the armed insurgents.