The situation in Niger is reaching a boiling point, with mutinous soldiers who overthrew the president in conflict with regional countries threatening an invasion to reinstate him. Insa Garba Saidou, a local activist who supports the new military regime, stated in an interview with Western media that the only way to avoid conflict is for regional countries to recognize the new regime. However, the West African regional bloc, ECOWAS, has issued warnings and threatened to use military force if the ousted president is not released and reinstated. The junta has rejected these warnings and refused attempts at dialogue.
Saidou emphasized that there is only one option – accepting the new regime or facing war. He stated that it is a waste of time trying to restore the ousted president. ECOWAS has directed the deployment of a “standby force” to restore democracy in Niger, potentially involving up to 5,000 troops from countries such as Nigeria, Benin, Ivory Coast, and Senegal. While the bloc prefers mediation, previous attempts have been unsuccessful.
Western nations considered Niger as one of the last democratic countries in the Sahel region, and considerable support has been provided to strengthen its military against the growing jihadi threat. However, the military regime is already consolidating its power by appointing a new government and fueling anti-French sentiment.
Protests against France and its military base in the capital, Niamey, have erupted, with demonstrators demanding the withdrawal of French troops. There are also concerns about the involvement of mercenaries from the Russian-linked Wagner group, which operates in several African countries and has been accused of human rights abuses.
Despite ECOWAS’ order for the standby force to deploy, it remains unclear when and how the intervention will happen. Some experts suggest that ECOWAS may be bluffing and attempting to buy time. The best-equipped and battle-experienced militaries in the region, such as Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso, oppose the intervention and have sent delegations to Niger to discuss joint defense efforts.
Saidou stated that any attack on the palace will result in the death of the ousted president. He dismissed reports of dire conditions for the president under house arrest and claimed that he still had access to medical care and his phone. However, those close to the president have revealed a different story, describing him as confined to the basement of his presidential compound without necessary supplies.
The situation in Niger is a complex and tense one, with a power struggle between the new military regime and regional countries. The potential for violence and the involvement of external forces raise concerns about the stability and future of the country. Only time will tell how this crisis unfolds and whether peace can be achieved.