Niger’s recently ousted president, Mohamed Bazoum, has appealed to the United States and the international community for assistance in restoring constitutional order in the country following last week’s coup.
In an opinion piece published in The Washington Post, Bazoum, who wrote the article “as a hostage,” expressed his concerns about the increasing influence of Russia in the region through the Wagner Group, which already operates in neighboring countries. Meanwhile, Niger’s West African neighbors have threatened military intervention to address the situation.
The defense chiefs from the region concluded a three-day meeting in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, on Friday, during which they developed a detailed plan for the use of force. This plan will be presented to the leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for their consideration. Abdel-Fatau Musah, the ECOWAS commissioner for political affairs, peace, and security stated, “All the elements that will go into any eventual intervention have been worked out here, including the resources needed, the how and when we are going deploy the force.”
Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu has written to lawmakers seeking their support for imposing sanctions and taking military action. In his letter, Tinubu highlighted the “military build-up and deployment of personnel.” The coup leaders, on the other hand, announced on Thursday that they were recalling Niger’s ambassadors from France, the United States, Nigeria, and Togo, terminating their functions.
President Bazoum’s appeal for assistance is a reflection of the gravity of the situation in Niger. The nation, which has a history of political instability, is currently in a precarious position as a result of the coup. The intervention of the United States and the international community is vital for the restoration of constitutional order, stability, and democratic governance in Niger.
Bazoum’s concerns about the increasing Russian influence in the region through the Wagner Group are not unfounded. The Wagner Group, a private military company, has been involved in various military interventions in African countries such as Libya and the Central African Republic, where it has supported the governments in power. The growing presence of the Wagner Group in neighboring countries poses a significant threat to the security and stability of Niger and the wider West African region.
The military intervention threatened by Niger’s West African neighbors demonstrates their commitment to upholding stability and democracy in the region. ECOWAS, as a regional bloc, has played a crucial role in mediating political crises and ensuring peaceful transitions of power in West Africa. A coordinated military intervention, guided by ECOWAS, could be an effective means of restoring constitutional order and preventing further deterioration of the situation in Niger.
The military junta had cut bilateral military ties with France, the former colonial power. France currently has approximately 1,500 troops stationed in Niger to combat Islamist militancy. In response, France stated that only “legitimate” governments have the authority to alter agreements.
In light of these developments, Ecowas has imposed sanctions and given the junta a deadline to reinstate the president or face potential military intervention. While pursuing a diplomatic solution, a delegation from Ecowas arrived in Niger but left after just a few hours without making any progress.
Niger plays an important role as a significant uranium producer, which is essential for nuclear power. With President Bazoum at the helm, Niger was regarded as a key Western ally in the fight against Islamist militants in West Africa’s Sahel region.
President Bazoum expressed his concerns regarding the coup’s potential devastating consequences for Niger, its region, and beyond. He emphasized that fighting for shared values like democratic pluralism and respect for the rule of law is crucial for sustainable progress against poverty and terrorism.
Addressing supporters, President Bazoum acknowledged their support during this critical moment in Niger’s history. Furthermore, he highlighted the coup leaders’ connections to Russian mercenary group Wagner operating in other parts of the region and believed their involvement could have a detrimental impact on Niger.
According to Mr. Bazoum, the entire central Sahel region is at risk of falling under Russian influence through the Wagner group. The actions of this group, known for their brutal terrorism tactics in Ukraine, have raised concerns. In Niger, many supporters of the coup have been showing solidarity with Russia by chanting pro-Russian slogans and displaying the colors of the Russian flag.
In response to financial and trade sanctions imposed on Niger by other West African countries, thousands of people peacefully demonstrated in Niamey, expressing support for the coup and criticizing these measures. While there is no evidence suggesting Wagner’s involvement in the overthrow of Mr. Bazoum, its leader reportedly considers the coup a triumph. The Russian government has called for a peaceful restoration of power to the ousted president.
The international community strongly condemns this military takeover, including the EU, UN, and US. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently spoke with Mr. Bazoum over the phone, reaffirming their commitment to restoring Niger’s democratically elected government.
It is important to note that Mr. Bazoum was detained by his own guards, and coup leader Gen Abdourahmane Tchiani has assumed leadership as head of state—a significant development for Niger’s political landscape.
Niger, situated in the Sahel region of Africa, has faced numerous challenges including the presence of jihadist groups and military rule. Despite this, Niger has managed to maintain a level of stability unlike its neighboring countries, Mali and Burkina Faso, which have experienced military coups.
To combat Islamist insurgents, both France and the United States have established military bases in Niger.
Under President Bazoum’s leadership, Niger has collaborated with European nations to address the issue of migration across the Mediterranean Sea. As part of this effort, Niger has agreed to repatriate hundreds of migrants from detention centers in Libya. Additionally, President Bazoum’s administration has taken strong measures against human traffickers operating within the country.