A massive rally took place in Niger’s capital, Niamey, as thousands of supporters of the recent military coup gathered at the Seyni Kountche stadium.
The rally comes as the deadline set by the Economic Community of West African States for the deposed President Mohamed Bazoum to be reinstated is about to expire. The atmosphere in the stadium was festive, with supporters waving Russian flags and carrying portraits of the military leaders.
The National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland, which now rules Niger, was represented by a delegation that arrived at the stadium to immense cheers from the crowd. General Mohamed Toumba, one of the CNSP leaders, addressed the supporters and denounced those “plotting subversion” against the country’s progress. He hinted at a Machiavellian plan orchestrated by unnamed individuals, stating, “We are aware of their Machiavellian plan.”
The demonstration coincides with the ultimatum set by ECOWAS on July 30th, demanding the coup leaders to restore President Mohamed Bazoum to power. However, as of now, the generals who seized power on July 26 have shown no intention of yielding. This defiance has resulted in ECOWAS military chiefs devising a plan for a potential military intervention to address the crisis. Several countries, including Senegal and Ivory Coast, have expressed their readiness to participate in the intervention.
The rally and the overwhelming support it received signify a complex situation in Niger. While the coup leaders have garnered significant backing from their supporters, ECOWAS and other international organizations condemn their actions as undemocratic. The support demonstrated by thousands in the rally highlights the underlying tensions within the country, as some Nigeriens, disillusioned with the previous administration, hope that a change in leadership will lead to better governance and address longstanding challenges facing the nation.
Niger has a history of military coups, with the first one occurring in 1974 led by Seyni Kountche, after whom the stadium is named. The recurrence of coups in the country raises concerns about its democratic stability and political culture. ECOWAS, as a regional bloc, aims to promote democratic governance and peace in West Africa. The organization’s intervention in this coup reflects its commitment to upholding these values and preventing further disruption in the region.
The situation in Niger is not isolated; it has broader implications for West Africa. The stability of one nation often affects neighboring countries, with civil unrest and political instability potentially spreading like wildfire. ECOWAS’s proposed military intervention demonstrates its proactive approach to prevent the coup from setting a dangerous precedent that could destabilize the region further.
Neighbouring Nigeria’s Senate pushed back against the plan and urged the country’s president, the ECOWAS bloc’s current chair, to explore options other than the use of force.
In recent developments regarding the political situation in Niger, neighbouring countries such as Algeria and Chad have expressed their opposition to military action and have made it clear that they will not intervene. Additionally, Mali and Burkina Faso, both of which are currently under military rule, have warned that an invasion of Niger by ECOWAS troops would be seen as a declaration of war against them as well.
This coup in Niger has dealt a significant blow to the United States and its allies, who considered Niger to be their last major partner in the fight against terrorism in the Sahel region. The Sahel, an expansive area located south of the Sahara Desert, has seen a rise in extremist groups affiliated with al-Qaeda and ISIS expanding their influence and posing a growing threat to coastal states such as Benin, Ghana, and Togo.
The US, along with France and other European nations, has provided substantial military assistance to Niger, with France having deployed 1,500 soldiers in the country. The fate of these soldiers is now uncertain due to the coup. The US also has a significant presence in Niger, with 1,100 military personnel operating an important drone base in the city of Agadez.