Deadline nears for Niger military to reverse coup, restore stability

As the deadline set by the West African bloc neared on Sunday, pressure intensified on the coup leaders in Niger, urging them to hand over control to civilian authorities or potentially face armed intervention.

The ECOWAS bloc, chaired by regional military powerhouse and Niger’s neighbour Nigeria, had given the troops that toppled President Mohamed Bazoum on July 26 a week to return him to power.

Military chiefs of staff from ECOWAS have devised a strategy for a potential intervention to address the crisis, which is the most recent in a series of coups that have impacted the Sahel region in Africa since 2020.

“We want diplomacy to work, and we want this message clearly transmitted to them (the military) that we are giving them every opportunity to reverse what they have done,” ECOWAS commissioner Abdel-Fatau Musah said on Friday.

However, he cautioned that all the necessary components for a potential intervention have been meticulously planned, encompassing the details of how and when force would be engaged.

Niger’s military leadership has declared their intent to respond with equal force.

Among the dusty alleyways of Niamey’s Boukoki neighborhood, the possibility of an ECOWAS armed intervention is met with resolute resistance.

“We’re going to fight for this revolution. We’re not going to retreat faced with the enemy, we’re determined,” said Boukoki resident Adama Oumarou.

“We were waiting for this coup for a long time. When it arrived, we breathed a sigh of relief,” she said.

Algeria, a significant economic and military force on the continent with a lengthy land border shared with Niger, has cautioned against a military resolution.

“We categorically refuse any military intervention,” Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune said in a television interview Saturday evening, adding that such action would be “a direct threat to Algeria”.

He stressed “there will be no solution without us (Algeria). We are the first people affected”.

“Algeria shares nearly a thousand kilometres” of border with Niger, he said.

“What is the situation today in countries that have experienced military intervention?,” he said, pointing to Libya and Syria.

Former colonial ruler France, from which Niger’s new leadership severed military connections upon assuming power, stated that it would “strongly” support whatever approach ECOWAS pursued after the deadline had passed.

Niger has played a pivotal role in Western strategies aimed at countering militant insurgencies that have afflicted the Sahel since 2012. This has seen France and the United States station approximately 1,500 and 1,000 troops in the nation, respectively.

Anti-French Sentiment

However, anti-French sentiment in the area is experiencing an upswing, coupled with increased Russian involvement, often through entities like the Wagner mercenary group. Moscow has cautioned against external armed intervention in Niger.

Niger, categorized as one of the world’s most impoverished nations, heavily depends on foreign aid. Paris has cautioned that this aid might be withdrawn if Bazoum is not reinstated as the country’s leader.

Nigeria has halted the supply of electricity to its neighboring country Niger, sparking concerns over the humanitarian crisis, while Niamey has sealed its borders, further complicating the delivery of essential food supplies in the vast Sahel nation.

Prominent Nigerian political figures have appealed to President Bola Tinubu to reconsider the proposed military intervention.

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