In view of a possible armed intervention, ECOWAS in Niger is looking for alternatives

Two more days. If the military, which took power in Niger after last week’s coup, does not return power to democracy before next Monday, ECOWAS has threatened to intervene militarily in the country. After Mali, Guinea-Conakry and Burkina Faso, Niger is the fourth country in West Africa where a military-led coup was successful. And yet still There are more questions than answers regarding the events that may occur in the coming days. If democracy is not restored, military intervention is called for, but a diplomatic offensive supported by sanctions packages would also be possible, or even the final collapse of ECOWAS.

military intervention

The least desirable option is also the most valued. In recent days it has been confirmed that the governments of Ivory Coast, Senegal and Benin are ready to join a Nigeria-led coalition, while Nigerian military junta representative Salifou Modi met with leaders of Burkina Faso and Mali on Wednesday and Thursday to undermine the support that allows him to face the ECOWAS coalition. The two blocs (military governments versus democratic governments) were finally forged when the spokesman for Guinea’s government, Conakry, pledged his support for the putschists in Niger, at least from a diplomatic point of view.

If successful, military intervention should come quickly enough to restore power to Niger before this confrontation between nations impacts the fight against terrorism. A prolonged confrontation could give wings to action for the terrorists stationed not only in south-west and south-east Niger but also in much of Mali and Burkina Faso. This opens the door to the possibility that external actors participate in the tender. The Nigerian putschists fear that France, the European Union or the USA will take part in the military intervention, which is disastrous for their interests, and certain information suggests that they have already asked their contemporaries in Mali to facilitate the deployment of Wagner mercenaries in Niamey to ensure the security of the new government. Let’s also remember that France and the United States have deployed a total of about 2,500 soldiers in the fight against terrorism in Niger.

sanctions or a democratic restoration

Niger is a country with an area of ​​1.2 million square kilometers, more than twice the size of Spain. There are large areas of desert that are lost in the undertow of the horizon. Although the capital, Niamey, has fallen into the hands of the coup plotters, this does not mean that the entire country supports the military junta, nor that the ousted government’s supporters have disappeared within the army. Former President Bazoum’s continued detention by the coup plotters is a response to fears that his supporters could regain power. The opera of intrigue is not yet over. Likewise, the sanctions imposed by ECOWAS (as General Tchiani himself noted in a speech to the nation last Wednesday) are beginning to have an impact in a country whose GDP is ninety times lower than Spain’s.

Ivory Coast has suspended its export-import arrangements with Niger as the Ivorian ports are the closest seaport for Nigerians. Nigeria, which supplies the neighboring country with 70% of its electricity, has shut down its supply and the first power outages have already been recorded in large parts of the country. France and the US have suspended their development aid to Niger, just as the European Union has paused the €503 million aid plan set for the years 2021-2024. Although President Bazoum’s reinstatement seems unlikely, there will be hope until the last moment for a new government that will please the military and ECOWAS alike.

Sanctions can always be asserted. ECOWAS (whose delegation sent by Nigerian President Bola Tinubu today met in extremis with the coup plotters in Niamey without being received by Tchiani and left the country after a few hours with no sign of reconciliation) has put this into practice regularly and measured in the past few years. Sanctions against Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea-Conakry have been the order of the day since Assimi Goita took power in August 2021. Sanctions that have not prevented another coup d’état in Niger and therefore have a double meaning: On the one hand could serve to provide a firm response to this violation of democracy without the need to use weapons; On the other hand, it is a response that has already been used in other countries and whose effectiveness is relative, since the sanctions have contributed to the impoverishment of the citizens of Mali and Burkina Faso, but have not ousted the coup leaders from power.

The dismemberment of the ECOWAS

What would happen to the European Union if a chain of coups in Germany, Belgium, Italy and Hungary succeeded? Would the European Union still exist after such a failure? This is the reason for the continuity of ECOWAS questioned in the last few months, but especially in the last week. The option of “providing African solutions to African problems” in this case showed that African problems are inaccessible to their solutions.

The splitting of ECOWAS into two blocs (military or civilian governments, nations pro-Russian or pro-West nations), with all that this entails, has led to a serious split, which is discussed today over the establishment of the Democracy beyond a regional war is looming in Niger. The spokesman for Guinea Conakry’s military junta warned in a statement released on Wednesday that military intervention in Niger would mean “the end of ECOWAS”., and he wouldn’t do that without reason. The coup governments of Guinea-Conakry, Burkina Faso and Mali were already testing the possibility of creating a Bamako-Conakry-Ouagadougou axis with increased cooperation on issues ranging from trade to the fight against insecurity last February. An attempt unsuccessful over time, but which could be carried out with the participation of Niger and taking into account the current context.

If the putschists left ECOWAS, it would not necessarily prevent military intervention in Niger, but it would help reduce the legal justification for that intervention. If Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea are not part of ECOWAS, what right does ECOWAS have to interfere in their internal affairs?

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