West African bloc prepares for military action as Niger coup
Defence chiefs in West Africa have drawn up a plan for military action if Niger’s coup is not overturned by Sunday, the regional bloc said, after mediation failed in a crisis that threatens regional security.
Niger’s coup leaders have until Sunday to step down and reinstate elected president Mohamed Bazoum, as requested by the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas).
It was the seventh coup in west and central Africa since 2020 that brought the bloc to a hard stance on last week’s takeover.
For the US, China, Europe, and Russia, Niger’s uranium and oil deposits are of strategic significance, along with its role in the war against Islamist rebels in the Sahel region.
According to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, US foreign assistance programs that benefit the government of Niger have been paused, but humanitarian and food assistance will continue.
The French have said they will support Ecowas’ efforts to put an end to the coup, but they have not specified if military support would be required.
On Saturday, the French foreign minister, Catherine Colonna, met with Ouhoumoudou Mahamadou and the Niger ambassador in Paris.
Abdel-Fatau Musah, the Ecowas commissioner for political affairs, peace and security, said heads of state would decide when and where to strike under the intervention plan.
The elements of any future intervention have been worked out here, including the resources needed, how and when we will deploy the force, he said at the end of a three-day meeting in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.
It risks further conflict in one of the poorest regions of the world, where groups linked to the Islamic State and al-Qaida thrive on chaos, whichever option it chooses.
There is no clear indication of how much support the bloc has. The neighboring nation of Chad, which is not part of Ecowas but whose military leader, President Mahamat Idriss Déby, played a role in mediation efforts this week, said it would not intervene militarily.
“We always advocate dialogue between Nigerians and we will never intervene militarily,” chadian defence minister Gen Daoud Yaya Brahim said on national television on Friday.
Ecowas imposed sanctions on Niger and sent a delegation to its capital, Niamey, on Thursday to seek an “amiable resolution”. According to a source in the entourage, they were rebuffed and did not stay long.
The message that we are going to give them the opportunity to reverse what they have done must be clearly conveyed to them through diplomacy, Musah explained.
Bola Tinubu, Nigeria’s president, told his government to prepare for options including deployment of military personnel, in a letter read to the senate on Friday. In addition to sending troops, Senegal has also announced that it will do so.