No doubt some of you have heard something of our yesterday’s events here in Niger. Many of you probably haven’t simply because Niger hardly makes into the news in North America. Yesterday the military staged a coup d'etat, storming the presidential palace with soldiers and tanks. Late last night they announced the suspension of the constitution and all official institutions while they attempt to restore democracy. This was not an unexpected move and with the political situation here for the last few months and various people have felt that a coup was just a matter of time. The president seemed to be moving towards a dictatorship, as the European Union, the U.S. pulled out they’re aid support. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had also warned of impending sanctions if the president did not change his course and step down. The prediction of famine/food crisis based on last summer’s harvest did not help.
I think this has probably been more stressful for the boys than for us. We happened to be at home when things started to unfold, with no awareness that anything was happening until friends called. The boys were at school however just down river from the presidential palace where the action was, with machine gun and cannon fire echoing down the river. The school went into immediate lock down. Here’s a blurb from the director that we received last night:
Dear Parents of Sahel Academy students, and friends,
It is 6:30pm local time as I write.
Today, at approximately 1:15 pm the sounds of gunfire and heavy artillery were heard in the city. A campus lockdown was immediately called. The students knew exactly what to do. I am very proud of them and their teachers as to how quickly and orderly they responded.
The director immediately contacted the US Embassy by radio to inform them of the noises that we were hearing and that we had entered lock down…
Lock down was maintained as the noises of gunfire were quite regular. At around 3:30pm, when about an hour had passed without hearing gunfire, we allowed the students to also use the library.
During this whole time the students, the youngest to the oldest, were well behaved, played games, sang or worked quietly.
At around 4:30pm the US Embassy security officer drove to the school campus, having checked which roads in the city were passable, and which roads to avoid. We were given the OK to call parents to come and get their children.
At 6:00 pm the last students were picked up by their parents. All staff are now safely home as well.Please make time to talk with, and listen to your children about the day’s events.
A friend commented, “Our kids have snow days, your kids have coup days”
All of that said, we are not in any danger. The coup had nothing to do with us and we don’t expect it to affect us or our ministries in any direct way. In the mean time the city is under a curfew and the embassy has advised us not to leave the house today or tomorrow and possibly Sunday. Please pray for peace.