Amidst escalating tensions, Russia has issued a stern caution against potential military intervention in Niger, emphasizing the potential for a drawn-out confrontation that could destabilize the entire Sahel region. The Russian foreign ministry’s warning comes in response to the regional bloc Ecowas’ announcement of assembling a standby force.
The Russian perspective aligns with concerns expressed by various stakeholders, as the US raises alarms about the Wagner mercenary group exploiting the prevailing instability. Demonstrations by coup supporters near a French military base saw some waving Russian flags, chanting anti-France and anti-Ecowas slogans, showcasing the complex dynamics at play.
France and the US both maintain military bases in Niger, utilizing them for counterterrorism operations against jihadist groups in the broader region. Ecowas military officials are reportedly poised to convene for drafting intervention plans, further reflecting the gravity of the situation.
While Ecowas remains committed to exploring diplomatic solutions, Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu has emphasized that all options, including the use of force as a last resort, remain on the table. The US, while not explicitly endorsing military action, has called for the junta’s removal to enable the reinstatement of democratic governance.
Meanwhile, concerns are mounting for the well-being of deposed leader Mohamed Bazoum, who has been held captive since the military takeover on July 26. Reports highlight the deteriorating conditions of his detention, with deprivation of essential needs such as food, electricity, and medical care. UN and human rights officials express apprehensions about potential inhumane and degrading treatment.
In this tumultuous context, the specter of military intervention looms large, prompting a delicate balance between pursuing a diplomatic resolution and addressing the pressing need for stability in Niger.
The Matter So Far
Niger’s democratically elected President, Mohamed Bazoum, was ousted by the country’s army two weeks ago, triggering widespread international condemnation.
The Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) is resolute in preventing yet another military takeover in the region, which marks the sixth instance within a span of just three years. “We are setting a firm boundary,” asserts Ecowas security chief Abdel Fatau Musah in a conversation with the BBC. He questions, “If we don’t take resolute action against what has occurred there, then which nation might be next?”
Ecowas has responded swiftly, implementing a series of measures including halting financial transactions, discontinuing electricity supplies, and, significantly impacting the landlocked Niger, closing its land borders to essential imports. In response to the crisis in Niger, regional leaders convened for a second emergency summit, issuing an order for the activation of a prepared military force on standby. This force stands ready to intervene should the military persist in retaining power.
Following Ecowas’ announcement of the standby military force’s activation, protesters assembled outside a French military base. The move has incited genuine fury among Niamey’s populace, who express dissatisfaction with the response of regional governments and the looming possibility of military intervention.