Deadline for Niger’s coup leaders to stand down and reinstate president expires after West Africa’s regional bloc warned it would take military action if they did not comply
- The junta were given a whole week to decide whether it would secede power
- While ECOWAS threatened military action, its members have urged for non-violent solutions
- Ousted president Mohamed Bazoum’s own guards helped overthrow him
The deadline for a military junta that overthrew Niger’s president to secede power has passed, leaving the world with baited breath as the country’s neighbours figure out what to do.
The country’s military was told by neighbouring bloc Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) it had until Sunday to stand down and reinstate ousted president Mohamed Bazoum.
The bloc gave the junta, which is being led by General Abdourahmane Tchiani, who analysts believe is being used as a puppet by the military, one week to hand back the reigns of the country to Bazoum, who was elected in 2020 in the country’s first peaceful, democratic transfer since it gained independence from France in 1960.
The military swiftly took control of the country in late July after soldiers sworn to protect Bazoum took him hostage from his presidential palace in the capital, Niamey, before the military swooped in to seize power.
While ECOWAS previously took a hard stance against the coup, the seventh West and Central Africa has seen in just three years, and threatened to roll tanks across its borders, its member states are now unsure what to do.
The military swiftly took power in late July, and was given a whole week to decide whether to hand back control of the country
Violence hit the capital city of Niamey during the coup, and the country’s president was held hostage
Mohamed Bazoum (pictured) was taken hostage by his own presidential guards
ECOWAS member Nigeria’s senate urged its president, the bloc’s current chair, to explore options other than the use of force.
The bloc has already imposed trade and financial sanctions on the military-led country.
Meanwhile Niger’s state electricity company claims that Nigeria, which supplied 90% of the power in Niger, has cut power supplies, leading to widespread blackouts, though this has not yet been confirmed by Nigeria.
Complicating matters further, both Algeria and Chad, two non-ECOWAS neighbours with strong militaries, said that they opposed the bloc’s use of force, while Mali and Burkina Faso, two junta-run states, said that a military intervention would be a ‘declaration of war’ against them.
No one knows what ECOWAS will do now that the secession deadline has passed
Niger is one of the poorest nations in the world, and food prices have skyrocketed following major sanctions against it
It is still not clear what ECOWAS will do if the junta holds on to power in the country.
Experts chided ECOWAS for giving Niger’s junta a whole week to decide whether to secede power.
Peter Pham, former U.S. special envoy for West Africa’s Sahel region and a distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council, said the coup leaders should have been given just 48 hours to decide.
‘Now it’s dragged out, which gives the junta time to entrench itself,’ he added.
The coup is seen in the West as disastrous, as Niger was one of the last countries that supported counterterrorism efforts in the Sahel region, a politically volatile belt that stretches across North Africa.
Western countries like the US and France have poured hundreds of millions of dollars of military assistance into Niger.
In the days since the coup, the fate of France’s 1,500 soldiers and the US’ 1,100 soldiers has been called into question.
Niger was one of the last African countries to help the West combat terrorism that stemmed from the volatile Sahel region
Russia has capitalised on the outrage, and many across Niger prefer Putin’s iron grip to the West’s
Western countries like the US and France have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on military aid for Niger
On top of this, Russia has spent significant resources building its footprint in the region, so much so that Niger previously saw demonstrations where citizens were heard shouting ‘long live Russia’ and ‘long live Putin’, as well as ‘down with France.’
While politicians and generals fight over who runs what, the people of Niger, one of the world’s poorest countries, are suffering more and more due to the uncertainty.
Following ECOWAS sanctions, food prices are skyrocketing and humanitarian groups in the country have warned of the ‘devastating effects’ the price rises will have on the 4.4 million people who need aid in the country
Many of Niger’s already struggling residents said military intervention is not the answer.
One Niamey resident, Mohamed Noali, said: ‘Just to eat is a problem for us. So if there is a war, that won’t fix anything.’
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