As the efforts of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to restore the democratic president of Niger Republic meets a deadlock, the regional authority has determined to intervene in the country, but the method has not yet been determined. The Nigerien Presidential Guard executed a coup d’etat on July 26, 2023 and detained Mohamed Bazoum and his family. The power seizure was televised and the Nigerien Security Forces soon joined the Guard to form a military junta.
Since then, foreign powers have tried to get the coup plotters to surrender and restore the country to democracy again. In response, ECOWAS issued a one-week ultimatum to the junta to reinstate Bazoum. The deadline ends on August 6, 2023. The regional authority also convened an emergency meeting, which was held in Abuja, to discuss the event. At the meeting, the stakeholders did not exclude the use of force, but military chiefs agreed that military intervention would be a last resort.
ECOWAS-led delegation fails to reach the military leaders in Niger.
Colonel Major Amadou Abdramane, the spokesperson for the Nigerien leaders, said in his response to ECOWAS that the regime is ready to defend their country. Regional mediation efforts to reverse the coup in Niger and restore its democracy collapsed as soon as they started. Tensions have escalated as the Sunday deadline has passed for the possible military intervention by other West African countries. At the emergency meeting, which ended on Friday, the defense chiefs planned to use force against the military regime but needed approval by the political leaders of each member state present.
An ECOWAS delegation to Niger, led by Nigeria’s former head of state Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, had tried unsuccessfully to meet with the coup leader, Gen. Abdourahmane Tchiani, who later declared that any aggression against Niger will see an immediate response and without warning. Meanwhile, Mali and Burkina Faso which are members of the regional bloc have pledged to defend Niger if the country is invaded. The two countries as well as Chad, Guinea and Niger itself were also absent at the meeting in Abuja. According to their statement, they will consider an act of aggression on Niger as an act of war against them.
Wagner reportedly arrives in Niger to defend the military government.
This would be the first time in years that ECOWAS would try to forcefully put down a coup in West Africa, which has seen several successful coups since 2020. An analyst at the Oxford Analytica said that a military intervention is more likely to happen. If they face resistance, it could cause a big catastrophe. ECOWAS would be intervening as a disunited body with three other members having expressed their displeasure with the bloc. This does not really help the campaign of ECOWAS. Mali and Burkina Faso border Niger, Chad, whose leader has tried to mediate the coup plotters and the regional body, as well as Algeria and Libya, is not a member of ECOWAS.
Any military intervention through land is largely restricted to Nigeria’s 1,600-km (1,000-mile) border with Niger. What the strategy of military intervention in land-locked Niger would look like is not clear, but the country enjoys some territorial advantage. With Pres. Bazoum being held in the capital, Niamey, the military intervention will focus there for a start. Also, Niger’s military has asked the Russian mercenary group, Wagner, for help as the deadline for it to release Pres. Bazoum nears. The group has reportedly deployed some of its combat units to Niger in preparation for the onslaught.
Latest military coup in West Africa concerns the West.
The latest military takeover amid a resurgence of coups in West Africa has been particularly concerning for the West. The West sees Niger as its last remaining strategic partner. The five-percent share of the global supply of uranium also makes Niger much valuable on the global market. According to Nnamdi Obasi, a senior adviser with the International Crisis Group, a military intervention could deteriorate into a war by proxy between foreign powers outside Africa. On the one hand, there are those supporting the restoration of democracy. On the other, there are those supporting the junta, which has taken a strong anti-Western stance.