Niger’s junta gains upper hand over regional bloc threatening military force, analysts say

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The junta in Niger has not complied with the deadline imposed by the West African regional bloc ECOWAS to reinstate the country’s ousted president or face military intervention, according to analysts. Despite the threat of military action, no measures have been taken, and the coup leaders seem to have gained the upper hand over the regional group. ECOWAS had given the soldiers who overthrew President Mohamed Bazoum until last Sunday to release and reinstate him, otherwise, they would face military intervention. The bloc ordered the deployment of a “standby” force to restore constitutional rule in Niger, with Nigeria, Benin, Senegal, and Ivory Coast pledging to contribute troops. However, it is unclear when and how the troops will be deployed, and during this time, the junta is solidifying its power.

Ulf Laessing, head of the Sahel program at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, stated that it appears that the putschists have won and will remain in power. He believes that ECOWAS is unlikely to intervene militarily to avoid dragging Niger into a civil war. Instead, ECOWAS and Western countries are likely to pressure the junta to agree to a short transition period. Laessing also noted that Europe and the United States will have to recognize the junta in order to continue their security cooperation in the region.

The coup in Niger, which took place on July 26, is seen as a significant setback for Western nations. Niger was considered one of the last partners in the conflict-ridden Sahel region that could help fight against the growing jihadi insurgency linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group. The presence of more than 2,500 military personnel from the US and France, along with other European countries’ investments in military assistance and training, highlights the importance of Niger’s stability.

Despite the announcement of the deployment of a “standby” force, there is still uncertainty about the actions that will be taken. A meeting of the region’s defense chiefs to discuss the deployment has been postponed indefinitely. The African Union is expected to hold a meeting to address the crisis. Nate Allen, an associate professor at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, suggests that the delay of the defense chiefs’ meeting indicates that ECOWAS views the use of force as a last resort.

Meanwhile, those affiliated with the junta claim that they are prepared for a fight and are unwilling to negotiate unless ECOWAS acknowledges General Abdourahmane Tchiani as the new ruler. Concerns are growing for the safety of President Bazoum, who has been under house arrest since the coup. It is reported that his situation is deteriorating with limited access to basic necessities.

As the standoff continues, most Nigeriens are attempting to go about their lives amidst the tension. The streets of the capital, Niamey, remain calm with sporadic pro-junta demonstrations. However, the economic sanctions imposed by ECOWAS are taking a toll on the country’s already struggling population. Prices of essential food items have increased, and electricity supply from neighboring Nigeria has been cut off.

Aid groups operating in Niger, which were already facing challenges in providing humanitarian assistance to over 4 million people in need, expect the crisis to worsen the situation. Niger is home to one of the youngest and poorest populations in the world, and the sanctions and suspensions of development aid are predicted to have a significant impact on living conditions.

In conclusion, the junta in Niger has not complied with ECOWAS’ deadline, and the coup leaders seem to be consolidating their power. The deployment of the “standby” force remains uncertain, and there are concerns for the safety and well-being of President Bazoum. The crisis is affecting the livelihoods of Nigeriens, who are already facing economic challenges, and humanitarian aid is expected to be further impacted.

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