ECOWAS Backs Down from Invasion of Niger Amid Lack of Support from US and France

ECOWAS backs down from military intervention in Niger after coup, as junta seeks Russian help and warns against becoming 'new Libya'.

Nasiru Eneji Abdulrasheed
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ECOWAS Backs Down from Invasion of Niger Amid Lack of Support from US and France

ECOWAS Backs Down from Invasion of Niger Amid Lack of Support from US and France

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has backed down from its threat to invade Niger following a military coup on July 26 that ousted President Mohamed Bazoum. The regional bloc had initially imposed sanctions on Niger and threatened military intervention as a last resort if talks failed to restore civilian rule. However, the lack of support from key allies, particularly the United States and France, has led ECOWAS to reconsider its stance.

Nigerian President Bola Tinubu proposed a transition back to democracy in Niger similar to the nine-month period his country underwent in the late 1990s. Algeria has also met with West African leaders to avoid military intervention and suggested a six-month transition period. The new military rulers in Niger have dug in, demanding a maximum three-year transition period and engaging in a political battle with France, stripping the French ambassador of diplomatic immunity and ordering his expulsion.

The overthrow of Niger's government has triggered concerns about contagion in the region, with military takeovers in Mali, Guinea, and Burkina Faso in recent years. Tens of thousands of protesters gathered outside a French military base in the capital Niamey, demanding that French troops leave the country. The protesters slaughtered a goat dressed in French colors and carried coffins draped in French flags, expressing their derision towards France, which has about 1,500 troops stationed in Niger.

The military-appointed prime minister of Niger, Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine, said he sees hopes of reaching an agreement with ECOWAS in the coming days. However, he also stated that Niger is bracing for an attack and is determined to defend itself if there is one. The key issue remains the timeline for returning to civilian rule, with ECOWAS suggesting a nine-month period, Algeria proposing a six-month transition, and the military rulers previously speaking of a three-year handback period.

Why this matters: The situation in Niger has significant implications for regional stability and the fight against extremist insurgency in the Sahel region. The coup has strained relations between Niger and its former colonial power, France, and has raised concerns about the impact on regional security.

The standoff between Niger's military regime and ECOWAS continues, with the junta accusing France of 'blatant interference' by backing the ousted president and denouncing military agreements with the country. The junta has also requested help from the Russian mercenary group Wagner as they seek to consolidate their power and resist possible military intervention by ECOWAS. The regional bloc has finalized an intervention plan, but Nigeria's Senate has advised exploring options other than the use of force. The junta has warned against military intervention, and Niger's state television has reported that the country will do what it takes not to become a 'new Libya'.

Key Takeaways

  • ECOWAS backs down from threat to invade Niger after military coup due to lack of key allies.
  • Niger's new military rulers demand 3-year transition, straining relations with France and ECOWAS.
  • Coup triggers concerns about regional instability and impact on fight against extremist insurgency.
  • Niger's junta accuses France of interference, requests help from Russian mercenary group Wagner.
  • ECOWAS finalizes intervention plan, but Nigeria advises exploring options other than military force.