High Risk Niger

Politics - November 25, 2023


The coup in Niger that ousted the legitimate president Mohammed Bazoum dates back to 26 July. Since that day, one has the impression that the military escalation and the firefight between coup plotters and member nations of Ecowas, the Economic Community of West African States, is ever closer. Although the diplomatic route was chosen, to avoid shedding blood in a country already deeply devastated, it seems that the military leaders of Ecowas planned the intervention and also chose a day in which to attack the coup plotters. This is what emerges from Accra, the Ghanaian capital where the Committee of the Chiefs of Staff of ECOWAS met. “D-Day is also decided,” a government official said at the end of the meetings. The possibility of reaching an agreement is not totally excluded, but the Ecowas commissioner for political affairs and security explains: “Ready to resolve the issue peacefully, but it takes two”. Furthermore, heavy economic sanctions were applied, again by Ecowas, to try to make the new regime cede. The coup leaders responded by giving the allied armies of Mali and Burkina-Faso the green light to enter the country should a foreign attack occur.

In this serious situation, the position of the European Union is clear: firm condemnation of the military led by Abdourahamane Tchiani, the new president, and no recognition of the coup plotters. Furthermore, any kind of collaboration with Niger and the new regime has been terminated. “In addition to the immediate cessation of budget support, all cooperation actions in the field of security are suspended indefinitely with immediate effect” was stated by the High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy Josep Borell. France immediately suspended all types of military agreements and partnerships with Niger. The concern of the European Union about what is happening and about the possibility that the coup plotters will try Bazoum for high treason remains deep and real. At the same time, the military junta has given the ambassadors of France, Nigeria and Germany 48 hours to leave the country. Dry “no”, from the Foreign Ministry in Paris. At the same time, however, there is no plan for direct intervention in Niger, nor is there any intention of supporting Ecowas militarily. The Italian prime minister, as well as president of the ECR, Giorgia Meloni underlined the importance of finding a “negotiated solution” to resolve the crisis. More than justified concerns given how complicated the political balance is in the Sahel. Destabilizing an area where coups d’état have occurred in Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad and Sudan only in the last three years could make it very difficult to stem the further worsening of the migration crisis. According to the latest ranking of the Global Terrorism Index 2023, the Sahel is the new epicenter of world terrorism. This is due to: presence of local militias, armed jihadist groups such as Boko Haram, al-Shabaab and Iswa. In particular, in Burkina Faso and Mali, two countries exactly on the border with Niger. Burkina Faso and Mali are the two countries in the world for the total number of victims: 1135 the first, 944 the second.

It is right not to intervene currently. At the same time, however, it is the duty of the European Union to monitor what is happening in an area highly at risk and to ensure that an African crisis does not become a European migration or terrorist crisis. The situation is much more complicated than expected.