Emily Wilson
Sat, Aug 5, 2023 5:40 PM

Regional Mediation Efforts to Reverse Coup in Niger Collapse as Deadline Approaches

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Regional Mediation Efforts to Reverse Coup in Niger Collapse as Deadline Approaches
Regional mediation efforts to reverse the coup in Niger have collapsed, increasing the likelihood of a military intervention by other West African countries. As tensions escalate, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) defense chiefs have finalized a plan for a potential forceful intervention if President Mohamed Bazoum is not reinstated. However, there are concerns about the potential consequences and challenges of such an intervention. Niger's strategic allies, the United States and France, stand against Russia and its private military contractor, Wagner, which have been supporting the military regimes in Mali and Burkina Faso. A military intervention could result in a lengthy presence of ECOWAS forces, potentially impacting the legitimacy of President Bazoum. Nigeria, the chair of ECOWAS, leads the efforts to reverse the coup in Niger while facing internal security challenges at home.

Regional mediation efforts aimed at reversing the recent coup in Niger have collapsed, leaving the possibility of a military intervention by other West African countries looming closer as the Sunday deadline approaches. The coup, which saw President Mohamed Bazoum ousted by his closest commanders in the Presidential Guard, has gained support from various factions of the Nigerien army.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) defense chiefs, at their meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, finalized plans for a potential military intervention if President Bazoum is not reinstated. However, the coup leader, Gen. Abdourahmane Tchiani, has warned of an immediate and unpredictable response to any aggression from ECOWAS forces.

The planned intervention by ECOWAS would mark the first time in years that the regional bloc has forcefully intervened in a coup in West Africa, a region that has seen a surge in successful coups since 2020. The current tensions and resistance from the junta increase the likelihood of this military intervention becoming a catastrophic conflict.

ECOWAS faces a divided front with three neighboring countries, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea, siding with the junta instead of supporting the restoration of democracy. Niger's other neighbors, Chad, Algeria, and Libya, are not members of the bloc, limiting land access for a potential military intervention to Nigeria's border with Niger.

The exact strategy for a potential military intervention is not yet clear, but given Niger's territorial advantages, the focus would likely start in the capital, Niamey, where President Bazoum is being held under detention. Spanning over 1.26 million square kilometers (486,000 square miles), Niger is West Africa's second-largest country in terms of landmass.

Nigeria, with its significant military strength and the current chairmanship of ECOWAS, is at the forefront of efforts to reverse the coup in Niger. With a military personnel strength of 223,000, which is over four times larger than the combined military forces of Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger, Nigeria holds a key strategic position in potential military intervention.

Speculations have arisen regarding the possibility of airstrikes being involved in the military intervention. However, with President Bazoum still in detention, he could be used as both a bargaining tool and a shield by the junta.

The overland military intervention from Nigeria would encounter challenges, as this route is inhabited by more than 200,000 refugees who have fled violence in northern Nigeria. This situation further complicates the potential deployment of troops.

The proximity of Niger's international airport in Niamey, just 12 kilometers (7 miles) from the presidential palace where President Bazoum is held, makes overtaking the airport challenging. However, Niger has two other international airports, including one in Agadez, where the U.S. military operates a drone base, potentially supporting military operations.

The recent military coup in Niger is particularly concerning for Western countries. Niger was seen as a strategic partner in the fight against terrorism in the Sahel region. Additionally, Niger's global market significance, especially in the uranium industry, makes the political situation worrisome.

Nnamdi Obasi, a senior adviser with the International Crisis Group, expressed concerns about a potential military intervention turning into a proxy conflict between outside forces. It is possible that supporting factions could emerge, pitting the West against Russia and its private military contractor, Wagner, which have aligned with the military regimes in Mali and Burkina Faso.

There are fears that any military intervention by ECOWAS could escalate beyond Niamey, endangering civilian lives. Civilians could potentially be used as human shields or cannon fodder by the junta, resulting in collateral damage during the military operations.

Even in the best-case scenario, if the coup is successfully reversed, ECOWAS forces would need to remain in Niger for an extended period to stabilize the situation. This could jeopardize the legitimacy of President Bazoum, as it would be perceived that his presidency relies on the support of foreign armies.

Nigeria, leading the ECOWAS intervention in Niger, may face challenges on the homefront. The Nigerian military has been dealing with internal security problems caused by armed groups and insurgencies, including banditry and Boko Haram, which have claimed numerous lives in northern and central regions.

Residents of Tangaza in northern Sokoto state express concerns that a military intervention by Nigeria could divert attention away from domestic security challenges, potentially exacerbating the situation along the porous border with Niger. The recent abduction of four people by gunmen in Tangaza district is a stark reminder of the security risks faced by the region's population.

In conclusion, regional mediation efforts to reverse the coup in Niger have faltered, paving the way for a potential military intervention by ECOWAS. The current division among neighboring countries adds further complexity to the situation. Any military intervention carries significant risks, including the potential for collateral damage and the prolonged presence of foreign armies in Niger. The successful restoration of democracy also hinges on the ability of ECOWAS forces to stabilize the country post-intervention. Meanwhile, Nigeria, leading the intervention efforts, faces its own internal security challenges that could be worsened if attention is diverted towards Niger.

Source of content: OOO News 2023-08-05 News

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