Niger Prepares for Possible ECOWAS Military Intervention After Coup

NIAMEY – Three weeks following a coup that saw Niger's President Mohamed Bazoum ousted by military insurgents, residents of the capital are rallying support in the face of threats from the regional body, ECOWAS. The West African regional bloc warns of a potential military intervention if the junta does not reinstate the deposed president.

A grassroots effort led by Niamey locals seeks to enlist tens of thousands of volunteers for the 'Volunteers for the Defense of Niger.' This initiative aims to bolster military ranks and provide medical care, technical support, and engineering logistics should an ECOWAS-led intervention materialize.

Amsarou Bako, one of the initiative's founders, stated, "It's an eventuality. We need to be ready whenever it happens." Registration for the initiative will begin this Saturday in key strategic locations, including border regions adjacent to Nigeria and Benin, both of which expressed intentions of participating in any ECOWAS intervention.

The geopolitical atmosphere remains tense, with both ECOWAS and the junta signaling a desire for peaceful resolution, albeit with limited progress. Recent charges of "high treason" against Bazoum and Niger's withdrawal of its ambassador from Ivory Coast only serve to further complicate matters.

This week, ECOWAS defense chiefs convene for the first time since announcing a "standby" force, heightening anxieties over a potential conflict. Experts warn that any military intervention risks destabilizing the already fragile Sahel region, marked by rising jihadi violence, displacement, and poverty.

Long-standing Western allies, including former colonial ruler France and the United States, maintain a presence in Niger, with around 2,500 military personnel focused on training and joint operations. The international community views the recent coup with concern, given Niger's role as a democratic beacon in the Sahel.

A diplomatic resolution is deemed most probable. However, the degree of military pressure required remains a contentious topic. Antony Blinken, U.S. Secretary of State, underscored the potential for diplomatic negotiations and voiced support for ECOWAS' ongoing efforts.

This week also marks the anticipated arrival of Kathleen FitzGibbon, the new U.S. ambassador to Niger, after a near two-year absence of U.S representation. The gap has limited Washington's engagement and insights into the region's intricate dynamics.

Michael Shurkin, of the Atlantic Council, notes the U.S.'s challenging position, caught between upholding democratic principles and fostering essential diplomatic relations.

As international dialogues continue, the sentiment among many Nigeriens is one of impending invasion. While the specifics of Niger's volunteer force remain uncertain, its purpose, as clarified by Bako, is to counter external threats, setting it apart from similar initiatives in neighboring countries.

Bako emphasized the uniqueness of the situation, stating, "Our people will fight against an intrusion," distinguishing the force from other regional volunteer fighters previously implicated in civilian atrocities.


Nigeriens call for mass recruitment of volunteers as the junta faces possible regional invasion. (2023, August 16). AP News.

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