Niger Republic swears in new president in country’s first peaceful transition

Mohamed Bazoum, sworn in on Friday as president of the troubled Sahel state of Niger, worked for years as the right-hand man of his predecessor Mahamadou Issoufou.

The 61-year-old steps into the world spotlight with one of the toughest jobs around — taking the helm of a deeply poor country battling a double jihadist insurgency.

Bazoum successfully campaigned in Niger’s elections as Issoufou’s anointed successor, a unifier of the nation and a defender of the rural poor.

He won the February runoff with 55.6 percent of the vote, according to official results contested by his opponent Mahamane Ousmane.

Friday’s handover marks the first transition between elected leaders in Niger’s coup-prone six-decade post-independence history.

But memories of that volatile past were revived just two days before the inauguration when the government said it had thwarted an “attempted coup.”

Bazoum’s friendship with Issoufou is long and close.

From trade union activity, Bazoum took up a political career alongside Issoufou in the 1990s, when they formed the Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS).

In 2011 Bazoum became an architect of Issoufou’s first election victory, taking on the nuts-and-bolts task of managing the party while Issoufou took centre-stage.

After Issoufou was re-elected for a second and final term in 2016, Bazoum gained prominence in ministerial posts, latterly becoming interior minister before stepping down to tilt for the top job.

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