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Comment: Niger’s new leader might be better for gay rights, couldn’t be worse

In the wake of the July 26 coup that overthrew Niger's president, members of the nation's LGBTQ community see a possibility that the government's

Mohamed Bazoum, deposed president of Niger. (Photo courtesy of The Guardian Nigeria)

Mohamed Bazoum, deposed president of Niger. (Photo courtesy of The Guardian Nigeria)

In the wake of the July 26 coup that overthrew Niger’s president, members of the nation’s LGBTQ community see a possibility that the government’s previous anti-LGBTQ stance might soften.

In January, then president Mohamed Bazoum announced his explicit intention to make changes to his country’s penal code, promising to severely punish homosexuality, including the death penalty for same-sex marriage.

Niger is one of the few predominantly Muslim  countries in Africa that lacks an anti-homosexuality law. Mazoum wanted to change that in response to an outpouring of anti-gay sentiment that swept the country.

His plan was upended by the July 26 coup, although that was not the goal of the military takeover, which coup leaders explained as motivated by deteriorating security and bad governance. Mazoum is now under house arrest. Neighboring nations have threatened to intervene militarily.

Djapharou Saoude Hirokoye (pseudonym), an LGBTQ observer of social and political life in Niger, agreed to give Erasing 76 Crimes his brief impressions of the coup and its after-effects.

Place de la Concertation in Niamey, Niger, site of the country’s National Assembly.

Erasing 76 Crimes: What is your analysis of the current situation in Niger?

Djapharou Saoude Hirokoye: The coup d’état took place against a backdrop of a deteriorating security situation in Niger, due to attacks by armed gangs from neighboring countries (Nigeria, Libya, Mali, Burkina-Faso). Mohamed Bazoum, who was removed from office by General Abdourahamane Tiani on July 26, had been in office since his election two years earlier, on April 02, 2021.

Lamine Zeine is Niger's new prime minister in the wake of the July coup. (Photo courtesy of Agence France Presse)

Lamine Zeine is Niger’s new prime minister in the wake of the July coup. (Photo courtesy of Agence France Presse)

Much to the chagrin of those who believe in the legitimacy of institutions, as a gay man, I won’t miss this president. The very fact that he wants to penalize and sentence LGBT people to life imprisonment is in itself a crime, in my eyes.

On the other hand, the current situation gives me great hope, because the current civilian prime minister, Lamine Zeine, an economist who was appointed by the military, is one of us.

[Editor’s note: Zeine has never made a public statement to this effect, nor has he come out to the media. However, he also has not denied allegations that he is gay.]

If you would like to support or get in touch with Djapharou Saoude Hirokoye, please write to him at [email protected].

Source: African Human Rights Media Network member Erasing 76 Crimes.


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