The leadership behind the recent coup in Niger emerged unscathed by a deadline imposed by the Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, to relinquish power in Niamey or face the possibility of military intervention.
The bloc met in Nigeria on Friday and announced that it was ready to intervene in Niger.
“We are determined to stop it,” Abdel-Fatau Musah, the bloc’s commissioner for political affairs, peace, and security, said. “But ECOWAS is not going to tell the coup plotters when and where we are going to strike. This is an operational decision that will be taken by the heads of state.”
The bloodless coup occurred earlier this month and deposed President Mohamed Bazoum, who was embraced by the West as a beacon of hope for American-style democracy in the region. (See “NIGER COUP: ENOUGH OF THE WEST, MOVING TOWARD RUSSIA. EU/FRANCE WANT ITS URANIUM,” 1 Aug 2023.)
Gen. Abdourahmane Tiani, the head of the presidential guard, has declared himself leader. Coup leaders announced that they will be withdrawing ambassadors from France, Washington, the U.S., Nigeria, and Togo.
Bazoum, who was elected in 2021, penned an op-ed in The Washington Post and said he has been taken as a “hostage” and the Russians are working to exploit the instability.
“The entire central Sahel region could fall to Russian influence via the Wagner group, whose brutal terrorism has been on full display in Ukraine,” Bazoum wrote.
A friend and adviser of the president told The Times that Bazoum was stranded in a private residence without electricity or water because Nigeria has suspended its electricity supply. Abuja provides Niger with about 70 percent of its electricity.
The paper said the sanction threat from Western countries and other African nations could impact millions in the country that rely on foreign aid for 40 percent of its national budget.
The threat of military intervention prompted supporters of the junta to dig in. Tens of thousands rallied at the country’s largest stadium and chanted Tiani’s name and voiced outrage over the threat from ECOWAS countries. Those inside the stadium dressed up chickens in the colors of the French flag.
“I’m here to support the military. We are against (the regional bloc). We will fight to the end. We do not agree with what France is doing against us. We are done with colonization,” Ibrahim Nudirio, who was one of hundreds of youth who joined security forces who patrolled the streets, the AP reported.
The paper said it is unclear how close these countries are in taking military action that could further destabilize the country—which is already one of the poorest in the world.
Gen. Christopher Gwabin Musa, the Nigerian chief of defense staff, said, “Democracy must be restored, through diplomacy or force,” the paper reported.
Not all regional countries agree with military intervention. The Associated Press reported that Algeria and Chad, which are not members of the 15-nation alliance, said they will not intervene militarily. Mali and Burkina Faso, which are both run by juntas, called any intervention a “declaration of war.”
TRENDPOST: Cameron Hudson, a senior associate in the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Africa Program, told Al Jazeera that any military intervention in Niger could be a disaster.
“The only positive thing we can say about this coup so far is that there has been no violence,” he said. “And I think we should preserve the peace in Niger for the sake of the people, and an intervention force led by Nigeria creates a very likelihood that perhaps uncontrollable violence will break out and that does not strike me as a positive outcome for anyone.”
Supporters of the coup have expressed their desire to break free from the clutches of imperialist powers like the U.S. and France that couldn’t care less that the sanctions they are imposing against the junta will hurt some of the poorest people on Earth.
The Trends Journal has reported on how African countries have been grappling with former colonial powers to obtain true freedom. The Niger coup would be the continent’s sixth military junta in the past few years. (See “FRENCH TROOPS EXIT FORMER COLONY, AMID TENSIONS WITH MALIANS” 23 Aug 2022, “3 MILLION SUDANESE DISPLACED, ABOUT 3,000 DEAD…BUT WHO GIVES A SHIT?” 25 Jul 2023, “U.S. ATTEMPTS TO BULLY SOUTH AFRICA AWAY FROM RUSSIA” 20 Jul 2023, “MAJORITY OF CITIZENS ACROSS WEST ASIA AND NORTH AFRICA DECRY U.S. INTENTIONS” 18 Apr 2023, and “BLINKEN GOES TO AFRICA TO PEDDLE ‘DEMOCRACY’ IN EFFORT TO BLOCK CHINA AND RUSSIA’S INROADS ON CONTINENT” 16 Aug 2022.)
The French Ministry of foreign affairs criticized the coup and said it regrets the “authoritarian oppression” imposed on the people living under these conditions.
The coup leaders announced that they severed military ties with Paris. There are some 1,500 French troops stationed in the country under the auspices of fighting Islamist militants. France, which has its military in a foreign nation that it once colonized and was, up until the coup, getting some 20 percent of Niger’s uranium at bargain basement prices to fuel its nuclear plants… said it does not recognize these statements from illegitimate governments.