Sunday, September 24

According to analysts, the junta in Niger has emerged victorious over the regional bloc’s intimidating military force.

In Niamey, Niger on Sunday, Aug. 13, 2023, children ran around the streets, chanting “down with France” and expressing their anger towards ECOWAS as they marched through the city.

Despite a deadline passed for mutinous soldiers in Niger to reinstate the ousted president or face military intervention, the junta has not yet done so, and analysts suggest that the coup leaders have gained an advantage over the regional group that issued the warning.

ECOWAS had instructed its soldiers who overthrew President Mohamed Bazoum in Niger to be released and reinstated or face military action. The bloc also issued an order for a “standby” force to restore constitutional rule in Nigeria, Benin, Senegal, and Ivory Coast to contribute troops.

The deployment of troops is uncertain, and it may take a few weeks or months before the deployment takes effect, which could potentially result in the junta becoming more influential as the bloc negotiates.

The Konrad Adenauer Foundation’s Sahel program leader, Ulf Laessing, stated that the putschists have won and will continue to hold their positions.

He stated that ECOWAS would not be involved in military intervention that could lead to Niger’s civil war, and that Western countries would likely advocate for a brief transition period instead.

The recognition of the junta by Europe and the United States is crucial for maintaining security cooperation in the region, as per Laessing.

The July 26 coup is viewed as a significant setback for many Western countries, who saw Niger as one of their last allies in the Sahel region, south of the desert, where they could collaborate with al-Qaida and the Islamic State group to combat an expanding jihadi insurgency. The U.S. and France have deployed over 2,500 military personnel in that area, while other European nations have provided substantial financial support through military aid and training.

The deployment of a “standby” force by ECOWAS was announced, but there was still lack of clarity about what would happen days later.

The defense chiefs of the region were unable to attend a meeting indefinitely. The African Union is expected to hold another meeting on Monday to discuss Niger’s crisis. However, the Peace and Security Council of that organization could override the decision if it believed that intervention was endangering wider peace and security on the continent.

Nate Allen, an associate professor at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, pointed out that ECOWAS considers the use of force as a last resort due to the delay in the defense chiefs’ meeting on the “standby” force.

He stated that the use of force would necessitate a high level of consensus and coordination, not only within ECOWAS but also within the African Union and the global community, given the potential difficulties.

Nevertheless, those connected to the junta assert that they are getting ready for battle, particularly since the military is not willing to negotiate unless ECOWAS recognizes Gen. Abdourahmane Tchiani as the leader who has been ousted from power.

According to Insa Garba Saidou, a local activist who assists Niger’s new military rulers, “ECOWAS is demanding that President Bazoum be released immediately and restored to his position as head of state.” She also stated that the junta should not force him out.

Bazoum, along with his wife and son, has been under house arrest since the coup, but there is now growing concern about his safety. According to insiders, he is struggling to find water, electricity, and food. Two Western officials have reported that Niger’s junta warned a top U.S. diplomat that they would kill him if other countries attempted to intervene militarily to restore his power.

The majority of Nigerians are attempting to move on from the ongoing standoff with regional nations and the coup leaders.

The capital, Niamey, has a peaceful atmosphere on the streets, with occasional pockets of pro-junta protests. Security forces quickly put down any demonstrations supporting the Bazcaum regime.

Sunday saw people marching in downtown Niamey, chanting “down with France” and expressing their anger towards ECOWAS.

The situation in Niger is appalling, and residents are content with the coup’s success. However, they fear that if the ECWOAS permits individuals to attack the country, it will be unacceptable.

On Friday, hundreds of people, many of whom were waving Russian flags, marched towards France’s military base to request the French evacuation. The mercenaries from the Wagner group, which is linked to Russia, have already been involved in several African countries and are facing human rights charges. This month, the junta requested their help during a trip to Mali, where they also work with Wagner and run by allied military forces.

Boubacar Adamou, a tailor in the city, claimed to have created at least 50 Russian flags in his time since the coup.

Despite this, a significant number of Nigerians are not interested in participating in protests and instead prioritize feeding their families.

The harsh travel and economic sanctions imposed by ECOWAS are having an adverse impact on the country, which has a population of around 25 million and is one of the most impoverished in the world.

According to Moussa Ahmed, a food seller in Niamey, the prices of food items such as cooking oil and rice have increased by 20% since the coup, and there is currently no electricity to power the fridges in his shop. Niger receives up to 90% of its electricity from Nigeria, which has also cut off some of it.

The crisis is expected to worsen the already dire situation, as aid organizations are already struggling to provide support to over 4 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.

The impact on civilians, including humanitarian and protection needs, cannot be exaggerated when military priorities overrun governance, according to Jan Egeland, the Norwegian Refugee Council’s secretary general.

The sanctions and suspensions of development aid are expected to have a significant impact on the living conditions of ‘a country already under strain,’ he said.

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