The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has issued a stern warning that military intervention in junta-ruled Niger is being considered as “the last resort.” In response to the recent coup, ECOWAS leaders have given the putschists an ultimatum to reinstate President Mohamed Bazoum, who was detained during the coup.
Nigeria, as the current chair of ECOWAS, has taken a firm stance against coups and has intensified pressure on the coup leaders by cutting off electricity supplies to Niger.
As part of the response to the coup, trade and financial sanctions were imposed by ECOWAS leaders, allowing a week for the coup leaders to restore Niger’s democratically elected president.
However, the military option remains on the table as a contingency plan. ECOWAS officials, led by former Nigerian leader Abdulsalami Abubakar, are currently in Niger for negotiations, while West African military chiefs convene in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, to strategize their approach.
Nigeria’s decision to cut electricity to its neighbor has further escalated the situation. Niger heavily depends on Nigeria for 70% of its power, and the sanctions have led to the suspension of aid from the World Bank. In response, junta-ruled Mali and Burkina Faso have warned that any military intervention in Niger would be considered a “declaration of war” against them.
Amidst the tension, General Salifou Mody, one of the coup leaders, has traveled to Mali’s capital, Bamako, to emphasize the need for cooperation between the two countries. International reactions have also been varied, with Moscow calling for “urgent national dialogue” in Niger and warning against the use of threats of intervention, while France has organized evacuation flights for its citizens from the capital, Niamey.
President Mohamed Bazoum, who came to power after winning elections in 2021, has faced significant challenges in leading one of the world’s poorest and most unstable countries, burdened by a history of coups since gaining independence from France in 1960.
The situation in Niger has far-reaching implications for regional stability, with jihadist insurgencies impacting the Sahel region since 2012. French and Western strategies to combat these insurgents have relied on cooperation from Niger, but the political turmoil and military takeovers in the region have complicated efforts to address the crisis.
The recent coup in Niger and its aftermath have further disrupted the stability of the Sahel region, affecting millions of civilians and leading to economic damage in the affected countries.
Evacuation Efforts Underway in Niger Following Coup, International Response Varied
General Tiani, the self-proclaimed leader of the coup in Niger, has faced international condemnation for his actions. In response to the tense situation, France organized evacuation flights from Niamey, the capital, following hostile demonstrations. However, in a televised address, General Tiani assured French nationals that they were not under threat and rejected the international sanctions imposed on the junta.
By Wednesday, French planes had successfully evacuated 992 people, including 560 French citizens. Italy’s Foreign Ministry also facilitated the evacuation of 68 civilians, including Italians and other nationals residing in Niger, with 18 Italian soldiers on the flight. Germany has issued an advisory urging its citizens to leave the country.
The United States has ordered a partial evacuation of its embassy in Niger, directing non-emergency US government employees and eligible family members to depart from Niamey. The travel advisory for Niger has also been updated, cautioning US citizens against traveling to the landlocked African country. However, a complete evacuation recommendation has not been issued. Around 1,000 US troops stationed in Niger were previously supporting ousted President Bazoum in combating a regional Islamist insurgency.
Niger has played a crucial role in French and Western efforts to counter the jihadist insurgency that has plagued the Sahel region since 2012. The involvement of armed Islamists in neighboring countries like Mali and Burkina Faso has led to sporadic attacks on fragile states in the Gulf of Guinea region, resulting in numerous civilian, military, and police casualties. The crisis has forced millions of people in Burkina Faso to flee their homes, exacerbating instability in the region.
The impact of these developments has triggered army takeovers in several Sahel countries and inflicted severe economic damage, leaving these nations among the world’s poorest. France’s Barkhane mission, aimed at combating jihadist threats, was once heavily deployed with 5,400 troops, fighter jets, helicopters, and drones. However, the focus of the mission shifted to Niger after France withdrew its troops from Mali and Burkina Faso due to disagreements with their respective juntas. The current reconfigured force consists of approximately 1,500 men, with many stationed at an air base near Niamey.