Home » Why is Niger important to ECOWAS? 

Why is Niger important to ECOWAS? 

by Akeem Adeyemi
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Why is Niger important to ECOWAS?

…Reasons behind the coup

…ECOWAS orders Defence Chiefs on standby for military action In Niger 

…Burkina Faso, Mali warns against military intervention in Niger 

The Niger Coup is not the first military coup in a West African country as its neighbours Mali and Burkina Faso had already succumbed to military coups without ECOWAS diplomatic or military intervention.

The power grab – which marks the seventh military takeover in less than three years in West and Central Africa – drew immediate condemnation from the African Union, the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and other powers.

Regional bloc ECOWAS has imposed sanctions, including a halt in all financial transactions and a national assets freeze. It also said it could authorise force to reinstate Bazoum, who observers believe is being held at his house in the capital, Niamey.

IdanNews reports that ECOWAS Chair President Omar Alieu Touray on Thursday said the bloc has placed defence chiefs in member states on standby for potential military action in the Niger Republic in response to the coup leader’s defiance of its 7-day ultimatum to restore constitutional order. “Said ECOWAS remained committed to resolving the crisis in Niger through peaceful means, but military intervention was a possibility if the coup leaders did not comply with the bloc’s demands.”

However, ECOWAS’ concentration on the Niger coup can be regarded as it is important in the West African country.

Niger is a key part of the African region known as the Sahel – a belt of land that stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea. The area is plagued by jihadists and beset by military regimes.

Niger Republic is the largest country in West Africa, it’s a bellwether state in many ways.

Politically, it had been seen as an example of relative democratic stability in recent years. 

Economically, it is rich in uranium – producing 7% of all global supplies. The radioactive metal looms so large in the country’s economy that one of the grandest thoroughfares in the capital, Niamey, is named the Avenue de l’Uranium.

Strategically, it hosts French and US military bases and is seen as a key partner in the fight against Islamist insurgents.

The US state department describes Niger as “important as a linchpin for stability in the Sahel” and “a reliable counter-terrorism partner” against various Islamist groups linked to either Islamic State or al-Qaeda.

President Bazoum’s government has been a partner to European countries trying to stop the flow of migrants across the Mediterranean Sea, agreeing to take back hundreds of migrants from detention centres in Libya.

He has also cracked down on human traffickers in what had been a key transit point between other countries in West Africa and those further north.

Recall that General Christopher Musa, Chief of Defence Staff, had earlier hinted that military action could be deployed to arrest what he termed as a hostage situation in Niger.

“We need to restore constitutional order, anything can happen. Heads of state have said nothing is off the table,” he said. “We are not sure which country will be next; if we do not arrest this situation, West Africa is going to be a laughing stock of Africa and the world.”

Niger coup

Reasons behind the coup happen?

Niger’s coup leaders, who have named General Abdourahamane Tchiani, the former presidential guard chief, as head of state, said they overthrew Bazoum over poor governance and discontent with the way he handled security threats from groups linked to al-Qaeda and ISIS (ISIL).

The Sahel region is a turbulent and unstable part of the world and democracy is currently in retreat there.

Violent Islamist groups have gained ground by controlling territory and conducting attacks in the tri-border region between Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso.

The mutinous soldiers in Niger have cited this worsening security situation as a reason for their uprising, although Niger was handling the insurgencies far better than Mali and Burkina Faso before their coups.

The growing unrest has led some to believe that only harsh military crackdowns can solve the problem, hence the popular support that the coup seems to enjoy in some quarters.

However, it is far from clear that a military junta would have greater success in tackling the insurgents than the recently ousted government. The takeovers in neighbouring countries have not made much difference. 

However, Niger’s people consistently rank as having the lowest standards of living anywhere in the world. 

ECOWAS orders Defence Chiefs on standby for military action In Niger


The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has placed defence chiefs in member states on standby for potential military action in the Niger Republic, following the ongoing military coup that saw the ousting of President Mohamed Bazoum.

The decision was made at an extraordinary meeting of ECOWAS leaders in Abuja, Nigeria, on Thursday. The meeting was called to discuss the crisis in Niger and to formulate a response.

ECOWAS Chair President Omar Alieu Touray said that the bloc had decided to activate its standby force in response to the coup leader’s defiance of its 7-day ultimatum to restore constitutional order.

“We have decided to activate the ECOWAS standby force with all its elements immediately,” Touray said. “We have also ordered the deployment of the force to restore constitutional order in the Republic of Niger.”

Touray stressed that ECOWAS remained committed to resolving the crisis in Niger through peaceful means, but said that military intervention was a possibility if the coup leaders did not comply with the bloc’s demands.

The force, which is called the ECOWAS Standby Force (ESF), is headquartered in Nigeria and Senegal. It has a command element of 300 troops, and it can be deployed within 7 to 10 days of a crisis.

The ECOWAS-Standby Force is meant to be a Rapidly-Deployable Military Force which consists of between 6,500 and 10,000 Troops

The ESF is funded by ECOWAS member states, but it also receives foreign support from the United States and France. 

Burkina Faso, Mali warn against military intervention in Niger 

Niger’s neighbours say any intervention to restore deposed President Mohamed Bazoum will be considered a ‘declaration of war’ against them. 

The military governments of Burkina Faso and Mali have warned that any military intervention against Niger coup leaders in Niger would be considered a “declaration of war” against their nations.

Niger’s neighbours issued the warning in joint statements read out on their national broadcasters days after West African leaders threatened to use force to reinstate Niger’s deposed President Mohamed Bazoum.

“The transitional governments of Burkina Faso and Mali express their fraternal solidarity. to the people of Niger, who have decided with full responsibility to take their destiny in hand and assume the fullness of their sovereignty before history,” the military governments of the two countries said.

“Any military intervention against Niger would be tantamount to a declaration of war against Burkina Faso and Mali,” they warned, adding that such a move could result in “disastrous consequences” that “could destabilise the entire region”.

The Burkinabe and Malian military authorities also said they “refuse to apply” the “illegal, illegitimate and inhumane sanctions against the people and authorities of Niger”.

The coup in Niger on July 26 has sent shockwaves across West Africa, pitting the country’s former Western allies and regional bodies against other countries in the region. 

In addition to Burkina Faso and Mali, Guinea’s President Mamady Doumbouya – whose government was also the result of a coup – has also expressed “disagreement with the sanctions recommended but ECOWAS, including military intervention”. 

In a social media post on Monday, Doumbouya’s office said the sanctions “are options that would not be a solution to the current problem but would lead to a humanitarian disaster whose consequences could extend beyond the borders of Niger”.

Doumbouya’s office also said it had “decided not to apply these sanctions, which it considers illegitimate and inhumane”, and urged ECOWAS to “reconsider its position”.

The expressions of support from Burkina Faso, Mali and Guinea came as Niger’s military attempted to consolidate its coup by arresting top officials of the toppled government. The mines minister, oil minister and head of the ruling party were among those taken into custody on Monday, according to Bazoum’s PNDS party.

The coup leaders had previously arrested the interior minister, transport minister and a former defence minister, the party said.

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