Niger Coup: Flagged momentum and confused leaders

Recent developments in post-coup Niger indicate either a change of mind or a loss of momentum even among both the military junta and the people. First of all, attitudes towards those perceived to be pro-French, and by implication, the Americans who share the same repressive economic and political attitudes towards Niger have flagged considerably. Generally known for its uranium deposits, Niger, like its contemporary francophone ex-colonies in the West African sub-region has been under economic and political patronage since independence in the 1960s.

There have been military coups in the past three years in Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea, and Niger follows the trend. The narrative that underlies the wave of the military takeovers in the three countries are regional instability, poor governance by elected leaders, and many successful past coups and Niger is no different. Nothing has changed for the more than fifty something years of political independence in the Francophone region in West Africa and the coups have never ceased either.

The reaction of the regional economic community of West Africa (ECOWAS) to the coup in Niger is to force the coupists in Niger to stand down or else face military action to restore President Mohamed Bazoum who was democratically elected and who is currently under house arrest with his family. Similar requests to Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea to restore democracy have so far been met with intransigence and refusal. On August 23, 2023 Niger indicated that it would cut off ties with France mimicking its three neighbors, but the current occurrences in the country show a rather downturn in enthusiasm.

Writing in the Indian Punchline, M.K. Bhadrakumar sees the Nigerien coup as taking a Bonapartist turn.  He sees a flagging revolution as the sanctions are beginning to bite. Other occurrences are indicators of a softening stance of the military rulers and a step away from their original hardline façade.

Trending now is the arrival of a new US ambassador to Niamey. Kathleen FitzGibbon, an ace Africa hand with intelligence background, as its new ambassador to Niamey signals diplomacy as the preferred course while keeping all options on the table. The speed with which Washington dispatched the ambassador is an indication that the appeal to revolution and the hardline of the putchists will change to diplomacy.

Interestingly and equally, the ECOWAS powerhouse, Nigeria gunning for a showdown with its north-eastern neighbor share some camaraderie with the United States. Their two armies have also cooperated while Niger is also friendly with the United States and is not ready to break ties with it.

Bhadrakumar writes further, “Equally, the U.S. State Department readout on Ambassador FitzGibbon highlighted that her rushed assignment aims to “bolster efforts to help resolve the political crisis at this critical time” and that her “diplomatic focus will be to advocate for a diplomatic solution.”’

In an interview with the New York Times, the civilian prime minister Ali Lamine Zeine designate on the eve of Ambassador FitzGibbon’s arrival in Niamey, suggested that the Niamey generals seek a direct engagement with the United States, a sentiment the ECOWAS appears to share after a meeting with coup leader General Abdourahmane Tchiani a couple of week ago.

Zeine’s remarks suggest that the ruling cabal in Niamey are a smart lot and could be in the long run seek a direct engagement with the U.S.  Indeed, the ECOWAS itself is caught in two minds after its first face-to-face interaction with the coup leader General Abdourahmane Tchiani in the weekend. When General Abdulsalam Abubakar speaks Nigerians listen and he is making an impact. He is a respected statesman and was Nigeria’s last military head of state and a source of moral authority who kept his word to hand over to a democratically elected government.  On his return from Niamey he told President Tinubu that General Tchiani and his junta lean toward diplomacy and that Niger is not likely to deteriorate beyond that line of thinking.

Amandla believes in the ethnic element in any violent confrontation with Niger. Nigeria shares ethnicity with Hausa population and its leadership is saying Nigerian cannot go and fight its own brothers and sisters in Niger.

Security experts have weighed into the Niger issue and many conclude that an ECOWAS intervention to try and restore the democratically elected government of President Bazoum could be a protracted affair that could spread all over the region. The impact would be a war that could be fought to retain an unelected administration instead of fixing an economy that has been held hostage for many decades and needs to be attended to in an atmosphere of peace and tranquility.

The Nigerien and West Africa’s Sunni Moslems owe allegiance to the Sokoto Caliphate and so any military intervention in Niger would not be acceptable. So would Hausas in both countries not accept to fight each other.

Any counter intervention from Guinea, Burkina Faso, and Mali could be a bloodbath most unworthy. A protracted military confrontation will not only distract and disturb the ECOWAS sub region already ravaged by broken economies, but it will have a ripple effect in Africa and beyond. We dare ask: How would ECOWAS handle the influx of war refugees?

Amandla hopes that in this challenging economic situation, the Tchiani administration will do the needful to facilitate the Nigerien people’s return to a duly elected government by the people.

Posted by on Aug 28 2023. Filed under Editorial. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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