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Nigerian army invading Niger after coup? No, video of 1998 peacekeeping mission in Sierra Leone

IN SHORT: A video posted on TikTok doesn’t show the Nigerian army in Niger shortly after that country’s July 2023 coup. It was shot during the Sierra Leone civil war of the 1990s.

In late July 2023, the government of president Mohamed Bazoum of the West African country of Niger was overthrown in a coup d’état – a sudden seizure of power – by the presidential guard.

Bazoum was elected president in 2021. Early in the coup the guard detained him in the presidential palace, where he remains at the time of publication. 

The coup leaders dissolved Niger’s constitution, suspended all state institutions, closed the country’s borders and imposed a curfew.

The head of Niger’s presidential guards, Omar Tchiani, then declared himself the head of a new military government known as a junta.

On 26 July, the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) condemned the coup. The political and economic grouping represents 15 countries in the region, including Niger.

Ecowas is chaired by Nigerian president Bola Tinubu. Niger straddles Nigeria’s northern border.

On the same day, Tinubu released a statement of his own. “Nigeria stands firmly with the elected government in Niger,” he said, “and equally conveys the absolute resolve of leaders in our sub-region that we shall not waiver or flinch on our stand to defend and preserve constitutional order.”

On 27 July, a video was posted on TikTok, claiming to show the Nigerian army in Niger.

In the 66-second video clip, soldiers in combat uniform are seen on the dusty streets of a settlement, with explosions and gunfire heard in the background. The soldiers throw open doors to dwellings to check who’s inside. At one point, a civilian runs past them with his arms raised, shouting “we want peace”.

Text at the top of the clip reads: “Nigerian army at Niger.” The bottom shows a photo of Bazoum and the flag of Niger.

The video can be found on TikTok here and here, and on Facebook here and here.

But does it really show the Nigerian army in Niger the day after Ecowas condemned the coup?


Nigerian-led intervention force restoring law and order’

The first clue that the video wasn’t shot in Niger is the civilian shouting “we want peace” in English. The country’s official language, and most widely spoken European language, is French.

What seems to be part of the logo of Associated Press (AP), an international news organisation, appears at the top right of the video. Several TikTok users commented that the video was shot in Sierra Leone, a small country on the West African coast where English is spoken.

We used these clues to find the original video. It was uploaded on the AP Archive YouTube channel in 2015, but its date is given as February 1998.

The video is headed: “Sierra Leone: rebels loyal to old regime still fighting Ecomog.” It was shot during the Sierra Leone civil war that took place from 1991 to 2002. Ecomog was the interim military arm of Ecowas.

The leader of Sierra Leone’s overthrown military junta fled the West African country on Sunday,” the video’s description begins.

It continues:

Meanwhile, the Nigerian-led intervention force continued restoring law and order and threatened to shoot looters on sight. The ECOMOG troops were still fighting soldiers loyal to the old regime in a few areas of the capital, Freetown, which they captured over the weekend ...

Here, six motorised units of the Nigerian-led intervention force ECOMOG help the force consolidate its grip on Sierra Leone after the weekend victory over rebel forces.

The video does not show the Nigerian army in Niger in July 2023.

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