In a critical development, France has thrown its weight behind the initiatives taken by member nations of an African regional consortium to counteract the recent coup in Niger. As the cut-off date tactics for the brand-new army junta to relinquish strength or face potential intervention, France has stated its support for efforts to restore democratic governance in the country. The French Foreign Ministry underscored the significance of this issue by emphasizing that not only the future of Niger, but also the stability of the entire region, is in jeopardy.
ECOWAS Ultimatum and Collective Action
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) recently issued an ultimatum to the coup leaders, stipulating that they must release and reinstate the legitimately elected President, Mohamed Bazoum, within a week’s time. Should the junta fail to comply, ECOWAS declared its intention to resort to all necessary measures, including the use of force, to reinstate constitutional order. The regional defense chiefs convened in Nigeria to orchestrate a collaborative response to the coup and formulate potential military strategies, reserving military intervention as a last resort.
Abdel-Fatau Musah, ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace, and Security, articulated that the foundational aspects of a potential intervention have been meticulously planned, encompassing aspects such as timing, required resources, and deployment strategies. While underscoring their determination to halt the coup’s progression, Musah clarified that specific operational decisions regarding intervention specifics would be made by the heads of state, who will play a role akin to commanders in chief.
The Junta’s Reaction and France’s Role
A delegation from the ECOWAS traveled to Niger’s capital, Niamey, for discussions with the coup leaders. Subsequently, the junta conveyed a stern message via state television, warning that any potential military intervention would be met with a swift and unanticipated response from Niger’s defense and security forces. France, as Niger’s former colonial power, holds a complex position in this situation. While its support for democratic restoration is crucial, it’s important to note that not all factions within Niger might welcome French intervention, especially considering the anti-French sentiments expressed by pro-coup demonstrators.
Wider Implications and Concerns
Niger’s democratic neighboring nations and Western allies, including France and the United States, have voiced their apprehensions about the ramifications of the military takeover. Their concern extends beyond Niger’s borders, as the return to military rule in Niger could have far-reaching repercussions for the fragile democracies within the region. Moreover, these nations are deeply concerned about the impact on the ongoing battle against Islamist insurgencies throughout the Sahel region.
Mohamed Bazoum’s Plea for Democracy
Writing a compelling op-ed in The Washington Post, President Mohamed Bazoum, effectively a hostage of the junta, expressed his profound concern about Niger’s predicament. He portrayed the situation as an attack on Niger’s democracy by a military junta. Bazoum highlighted the unique role of Niger in the Sahel region, describing it as a stronghold of human rights in the midst of neighboring countries grappling with authoritarian movements. He expressed his perspective that while the coup attempt bears tragic consequences for the people of Niger, its success could potentially lead to dire repercussions beyond the country’s borders.
As the diplomatic and regional efforts intensify and the deadline looms, the fate of Niger hangs in the balance. The collaboration among ECOWAS nations, the stance of influential global actors, and the fervent hope of Niger’s president for the preservation of democracy underscore the gravity of the situation and the high stakes at hand.