Niamey – A former interior minister in Niger, Ousmane Cisse, is being detained for a suspected part in two attempted coups, including one that took place last month, an official said on Monday.
Cisse, who was interior minister from 2010-11, “has been placed in custody in Birni N’Gaoure prison in southern Niger for his part in two attempted coups, one foiled in March 2021 and another just recently, in March 2022,” the Nigerien official said.
The government has previously said that a coup was averted in March 2021 just ahead of the newly-elected president’s inauguration, but has not referred to any second coup attempt.
The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Cisse had been questioned by an examining magistrate last Friday and then placed in custody.
He gave no further details, but a source in the prison service confirmed that Cisse had been “jailed in a prison in Birni N’Gaoure,” a town about 100km (60 miles) south of the capital Niamey.
A deeply poor country lying in the heart of the arid Sahel region of West Africa, Niger has a long history of volatility.
On March 31 last year, the government announced that several people had been arrested following an attempted coup that took place two days before the current president, Mohamed Bazoum, was due to be sworn in.
The alleged mastermind was Sani Gourouza, an air force captain, who was arrested the following month in neighbouring Benin and then handed over to Niger.
The Nigerien officiel told AFP that Cisse’s arrest “is also in connection with the latest coup, which was foiled in March 2022 while President Bazoum was in Turkey.”
There has been no official announcement about any second coup attempt, and the details about Cisse’s alleged part in either episode are unclear.
Cisse, 60, is a career police officer who served as interior minister in a transitional government set up by General Salou Djibo, the head of a junta that toppled the then president, Mamadou Tandja, in February 2010.
The transitional government staged presidential elections that were won by veteran opposition leader Mahamadou Issoufou.
He stepped down in 2021 after two terms, to be succeeded at the ballot box by his anointed successor, Bazoum.
Under Issoufou’s tenure, Cisse occupied key positions as presidential advisor, head of police and director of external security, before becoming ambassador to Chad and the Central African Republic.
Picture: Twitter / @PresidenceNiger