In late July, Niger's pro-Western president Mohamed Bazoum was deposed in a military coup. The self-proclaimed ruler who took over, General Abdourahmane "Omar" Tchiani, declared he would not accept any foreign interference after the West African confederation ECOWAS had threatened to intervene militarily.
European citizens are being evacuated from the country. As the security situation in Niger remains unclear, many social media users are posting videos and information about the coup and its consequences in the country. DW's fact-checking team followed up on three of the most viral claims.
Does this video show Niger’s army training?
Claim: "A strange picture of the training of the Niger army to deal with the coup plotters!" claimed one Twitter useras they shared a video that was viewed over 200,000 times. The footage shows dozens of people in uniform practising a fight sequence.
DW fact check: False
Our research showed that the video does not depict the Nigerien armed forces. Instead, it is an old video of the Nigerian Youth Service Corps (NYSC). The one-year program from Nigeria, not Niger, is designed for college and university graduates "to inculcate discipline in Nigerian youths by instilling in them a tradition of industry at work, and of patriotic and loyal service to Nigeria in any situation they may find themselves."
Here's how we found out: We used online research tools, and discovered the same video posted on Facebook (archived here) on July 7, 2022. It came with a caption stating that the video showed "NYSC Members Training Aggressively to 'Combat Insecurity & Banditry'" at Benue Orientation Camp in Nigeria. Further research uncovered that there is indeed a NYSC Camp in Benue State where trainees wear the exact same uniform as in the video in question. On Instagram, we found the same video (archived here) again, posted on July 5, 2022.
Are France's light bulbs powered by Nigerien uranium?
Claim: "One out of three light bulbs in France is powered by uranium from Niger, where 90% of the people lack electricity." This is what several social media users claimed online, such as in these Tweets. One has been viewed over 30,000 times.
DW fact check: False
The claim that one out of three light bulbs in France is powered by uranium from Niger is not realistic, Phuc-Vinh Nguyen told DW. He is an energy expert at the Jacques Delors Institute in Paris. Uranium is a heavy metal which is used to fuel nuclear fission reactors.
According to Nguyen, France has sourced about 15% of its uranium supplies from Niger over the last 10 years. The expert based these calculations on official data from French authorities. Institutions such as the electricity company Electricite de France or the French Ministry of Ecology did not provide DW with specific numbers.
The putsch in Niger has raised questions about how depedent France — a former colonial power — and the EU are on Nigerien uranium supplies. However, the European Commission (EC) does not fear a shortage of nuclear fuel for European nuclear power plants, most of which are located in France.
"There is currently no supply risk," EC spokesperson Adalbert Jahnz on August 1, in Brussels. According to Jahnz, companies in the EU have sufficient stocks: "In the medium and long term, there are enough resources on the world market to meet the EU´s demand."
Nguyen also currently sees no risk of supply shortages for France. "When it comes to uranium, France has a strategy of diversification," he told DW. Additionally, it is possible to keep uranium in storage: "France would have at least two to three years of stored uranium."
Does Niger have less access to electricity?
Social media users have suggested that France’s import of uranium from Niger is directly responsible for Niger's low electrification rate.
Ramchandra Bhandari, professor on energy supply systems at the Cologne University of Appliced Science, sees no direct link between uranium exports to France and the lack of access to electricity for people in Niger.
But it is true that Niger has one of the lowest electrification rates in sub-Saharan Africa. According to the World Bank around 81 percent of the Nigerien population had no access to electricity in 2021. Other sources estimate that number is a bit higher: The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, for example, assumes that more than 80% lack access to electricity.
One reason for this is the lack of infrastructure in the country, Bhandari told DW.
"The infrastructure in Niger is not designed to use uranium for its own electricity supply," he said. For Niger it is easier to gain electricity through renewable energy, as well as from natural gas or coal power plants. But the generation of electricity is still low in the country. Niger must import about 70% of its electricity from its neighbor Nigeria. But on August 2, Nigeria cut its electricity supply to Niger, after ECOWAS imposed sanctions on Niger due to the military coup.
Is the Nigerian army fighting in Niger?
DW fact check: False
The video shared on TikTok has more than one million views and was reposted by several users. In the video, dozens of soldiers with guns march through a village, some of them shooting. But the video is old and does not show the Nigerian army fighting in Niger, research shows.
Several TikTok users commented that the scene took place in Sierra Leone and not in Niger. In our online research, we foundthe original video on YouTube. It was posted by the US news agency Associated Press (AP) on July 21, 2015. In the TikTok video, the cropped AP logo can be seen on the right edge of the screen.
According to information linked to the original AP video, the footage is from 1998. The caption reads: "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."