About 30,000 Nigeriens trooped out to attend a rally in Niamey, capital of Niger, on Sunday, in support of the military junta, as deadline issued by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) expired.
The Nigeria-led ECOWAS, last Sunday, gave Gen Abdourahmane Tchiani and his lieutenants one week to release ousted President Mohamed Bazoum and restore democratic order in Niger.
Bazoum’s democratic government that came into power in 2021 was toppled on July 26, an incident that was widely criticised.
However, as junta refused to succumb to Nigerian President Bola Tinubu’s ECOWAS threat, Gen Mohamed Toumba, one of the leaders of the military council that seized power ten days ago, defiantly addressed the crowd in Niamey.
According to RFI, Toumba said that shadowy forces were “plotting subversion” against “Niger’s march forward. We are aware of their Machiavellian plan.
As Tchiani-led junta has not caved in, ECOWAS spearheaded by Nigeria keeps mum on the next move against Niger.
Its silent can be traced to caution Tinubu has received in the last days to tread softly in deploying military operations against Nigeria’s neighbouring country, Niger, which impacts would be felt in the North.
In his efforts as the Chairman of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, Tinubu dispatched a high-level delegation to broker peace with the military junta, this week, a move that bore no fruits.
Niger junta’s defiance may be rooted in the support of Mali and Burkina Faso as the situation in the West African country mirrors that of Mali, which also saw foreign soldiers ordered out of the country after a military coup in 2021.
Neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso — which experienced a military coup in 2022 — have both pledged their support to Niger’s junta should ECOWAS make good on its threat of military intervention.
They said any military intervention against Niger, translates to a declaration of war, and they will not fold their arms.
In a similar situation, Algeria and Chad, which are not part of ECOWAS but share borders with Niger, have both stated they will not participate in any military operation.
“We categorically refuse any military intervention,” Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune said in a television interview on Saturday evening, adding that such action would be “a direct threat to Algeria”.
The West’s evacuations and suspension of aid
However, the position of the foreign powers is clear on Niger crisis, as the United States, France, and Germany, all back Tinubu-chaired West African regional bloc to wield power militarily.
The West have not only evacuated their nationals in Niger, they also partially or totally suspended financial disbursements to the country.
The US currently has some 1,000 soldiers stationed in the country, Germany has a continent of roughly 100 troops on the ground.
Italy, one of several Western countries with forces stationed in Niger, said on Sunday it had reduced its troop numbers to make room in its military base for civilians who may need protection.
Nigeria’s economic influence
As ECOWAS member states were consulting their legislators over the weekend on the bloc’s contingency plan to intervene, it is understood that Nigeria, the most populous African country, has an economic clout to punish Niger.
Nigeria, which supplies up to 90 per cent of the electricity in Niger, has cut off some of the supply and also closed its land borders, as well as ordering no-fly zone.
This has also raised prices of food in Niger, as humanitarian groups have warned of “devastating effects” on the lives of over 4.4 million people in need of aid.
These sanctions could bring more in the days to come, as Tinubu-led West African regional bloc, will employ all possible efforts to restore democratic order in Niger.