West African leaders vow to send soldiers to Niger to return the country to civilian rule

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 31 July 2023:

Leaders of West African States meeting yesterday in Abuja, have strongly condemned the military coup which ousted President Mohamed Bazoum and his government in Niger last week. The ECOWAS Heads of States have given the coup leaders one week to hand over power to the President and return to their barracks.

Western nations have suspended financial aid and military collaboration with Niger, calling for a swift return to civilian rule.

The UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said in a statement yesterday that Britain “condemns in the strongest possible terms attempts to undermine democracy, peace and stability in Niger”. “The Communique agreed at the Fifty First Extraordinary Summit on the Socio-Political Situation in the Republic of Niger, held by ECOWAS on 30 July sets out a strong and clear response to this infringement of the democratic rights of the people of Niger. We continue to stand by ECOWAS and their efforts to ensure a return to democracy in Niger.”

US secretary of state Antony Blinken said the continued security and economic arrangements between Niger and the US is now dependent on the release of President Bazoum (Photo below) and “the immediate restoration of the democratic order in Niger”.

ECOWAS leaders said in a statement yesterday that: “In the event the authorities’ demands are not met within one week we will take all measures necessary to restore constitutional order in the Republic of Niger. Such measures may include the use of force.”

French President Emmanuel Macron said that he would “not tolerate any attack against France and its interests and will respond immediately and intractably” to any provocation.

Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu (Photo below), who is the chair of ECOWAS said at the ECOWAS summit in Abuja yesterday: “There’s no more time for us to send a warning signal, it’s time for action.”

Mr Bazoum was elected two years ago in Niger’s first peaceful, democratic transfer of power since independence from France.

But the military leaders in Niger are defiant, warning against any military intervention by foreign forces. Spokesperson Colonel Amadou Abdramane said: “We want to once more remind ECOWAS or any other adventurer of our firm determination to defend our homeland.”

Reaction to the coup in Mali is mixed, with many civilians supporting the military take-over, accusing the president and his government of corruption and poor governance. Thousands of supporters of the military junta surrounded the French embassy in Niamey, Niger’s capital, setting the gates alight and chanting anti-French and pro-Russian slogans.

But the majority of Malians, though poor, would like to see the return of a civilian government through democratic means.

Defending the decision of the army to oust the government, General Tchiani (Photo) said that the military could no longer stand by and “witness the gradual and inevitable demise of our country.”  “That is why we decided to intervene and take responsibility.”

Mr Bazoum had been seen as a key Western ally in the region in the fight against extremists linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State.

Last Thursday, General Tchiani appealed to those countries he referred to as friends of Niger, saying: “I ask the technical and financial partners who are friends of Niger to understand the specific situation of our country in order to provide it with all the support necessary to enable it to meet the challenges.”

Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world, receiving close to $2bn (£1.6bn) a year in official development assistance, according to the World Bank.

France, which ruled Niger as a colony until 1960, has 1,500 soldiers in the country, who had been conducting joint operations with its government.

Mo Ibrahim, who is founder and Chair of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation and Co-founder and Co-Chair of the Africa-Europe Foundation issued this statement in response to the coup: “We are deeply concerned by the events unfolding in Niger, which seriously threaten democracy and regional stability.

“Niger, like most countries in the region, faces several longstanding climate, economic and security challenges, which successive administrations have led the way in addressing. Nothing can justify the overthrowing of a democratically elected government.

“The current situation risks undermining the progress in tackling some of the country’s most deeply entrenched challenges.

“Once again, we see armed forces in African countries turn their guns against their governments rather than protecting their own people and fighting terrorist threats.

“It is critical that the people of Niger’s right to democracy and stability is protected, constitutional order restored, and President Bazoum immediately re-instated.”





  1. Mr Leo Africanus, you speak of the need of examining the grievances of the putschists in Niger, but in whose interest have they really acted? They claim to speak for the people of Niger, but have they been mandated by these to do so?

    The civilian authorities the putschists have unceremoniously swept aside may not have been perfect leaders, but they at least derived their legitimacy from the settled will of the Nigerien electorate. Can the putschists lay claim to such legitimacy?

    No wonder the only countries in the region that support the putschists are Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea, all three being led, unsurprisingly, by Kalashnikov-wielding usurpers of power. As the saying goes, birds of a feather flock together.

    What is clear and very worrying following the events in Niger is that the contagion of military takeovers has become an epidemic and must be stopped dead in its tracks before it engulfs the remaining countries in the region. It is in this sense that the threat of the use of military force issued by ECOWAS should be welcomed. It is to be hoped that the regional body will somehow have the gumption to carry out that threat, if need be, that is, as a last resort.

    There is of course the risk that the use of military force to reverse the coup may result in a region-wide war, aided and abetted by Western vested interests on the one hand and those of Putin’s Russia and Xi Jinping’s China on the other; a Russia and a China that are hell bent on challenging and holding in check an American-led capitalist West world order.

    However, to my mind, while ECOWAS should take every step to avoid being hostage to the geopolitical interests of external powers, it can no longer afford the luxury of burying, ostrich-like, its head in the sand. The political health and stability of the region demand that it acts now to put paid to the epidemic of military coups that is gaining ground with alarming velocity. Otherwise, Mali’s Goïta, Guinea’s Doumbouya, Burkina Faso’s Traoré and latterly Niger’s Tchiani will soon have copycats everywhere else in the region.

    The madding, reckless sabotage of democratic rule must end. ECOWAS must get its house in order: its survival, relevance and credibility depend on that.

  2. What a BIG JOKE! ECOWAS threatening ‘Military Intervention’ as one way of bringing back the civilian leader of Niger to power. In the first place, why don’t you begin with negotiating his release? Secondly, you cannot intervene militarily when two of the countries bordering Niger are opposed to the idea.

    Your military intervention strategy only worked in Sierra Leone in 1998 because you already had a force in neighboring Liberia. Lastly, you have allowed Guinea’s coup leaders to stay in power whilst keeping the former civilian ruler in house arrest for close to one year.

  3. ECOWAS – the growling, grimacing bulldog that lacks the ability to bite, threatens in vain once again; Spineless they were yesterday…and tomorrow they surely will not be anything less than what they really are today…thoughtless, spineless and toothless, through and through; Lets now wait and see if they are going to bring to conclusion the actions they have already set in motion; They have ignited a spark…so lets wait and see if it slowly dwindles away, or explodes and becomes a frightful, engulfing firestorm.

  4. I don’t think ECOWAS has what it takes to intervene in Niger militarily. Nigeria is deeply divided and faces major security and economic problems. I think they’ll huff and puff but won’t fight. The military leaders of Mali and Burkina Faso have resolved to provide military support to Niger.

    If ECOWAS acts precipitously, this might well become West Africa’s first major post-independence regional war. It will also become an extension of the war in Ukraine, with Russia and China supporting Niger, Mail and Burkina Faso, and Western countries lining up behind the ECOWAS countries that have imposed sanctions on Niger.

    The political situation in West Africa is fragile and retrogressive. Most of the limited democratic gains of the 1990s in the region are being reversed.

    Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the chair of ECOWAS, has a dubious mandate—he’s still facing a court challenge on his questionable election. Alassane Ouattara of Côte d’Ivoire is on an illegitimate third term.

    Macky Sall of Senegal wanted a third term but was forced by the public to give up on the idea only recently, while his chief opponent Ousmane Sonko is being hounded by the security forces and the courts.

    Sierra Leone has just held fraudulent elections that have been condemned by a number of international and national observers, but not by ECOWAS. Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso and now Niger are ruled by military strong men.

    Guinea Bissau is a narco state. Liberia is ruled by an incompetent ex-footballer. Seemingly democratic Ghana is mired in economic crisis. Only tiny Cape Verde is an oasis of stable democratic politics in the region.

    Nigeria shares a long border with Niger, which has supported Nigeria’s war against Boko Haram terrorists—intervention will worsen the Boko Haram war in Nigeria.

    This is what we get when a regional body turns a blind eye on negative developments in the region and allows them to fester.

  5. So, ECOWAS safeguarding of democracy depends on the military clout of the alleged wrongdoer. Have they examined the grievances of the coup leaders. Have there been recommendations designed to address failing by the political elite? Or is this democracy one of starvation and mismanagement, which as long as you can cast your ballot once in a while and satisfy our imperialist masters; it does not matter if, you have no access to food, health or the basics of life. If democracy is something that corrupt elites hide behind to punish the people, secure in the knowledge that the sycophants in Abuja are ready to unleash hell on anyone who dares stand for progress; the obvious result will be the victory of the Islamic insurgents in the Sahel, as people lose hope in everything western, including democracy

  6. ECOWAS seems to want to put its regional democratic acts and credentials together. The regional political body’s decision to give the Nigerien coupists their marching orders is commendable. Let us hope that if the said coupists fail to cooperate, the regional body will go out of its way and carry out its threat of using force to dislodge them. Many people in West Africa will then be ready to forgive the body for not adopting a similar stance against the Goïtas, Doumbouyas and Traorés of this world when with brazen muscularity they bulldozed their way to power in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso.

    Indeed, by saying enough is enough to General Tchiani and his fellow gun-toting usurpers of political power in Niger, ECOWAS refreshingly and salutarily graduates from the status of a toothless regional political bulldog to that of one possessing real fangs that can and do bite – a warning, if any was needed, to current and potential usurpers of democratic power and rule in West Africa.

    The curious and interesting thing though is this: what does ECOWAS’s act of collective self-redemption amount to when it comes to handling leaders like Bio and his ilk who deliberately and crassly subvert their countries’ democracy by retaining power that is based on questionable, widely discredited, rigged election results? Is the seemingly newly minted ECOWAS minded to go the extra mile and grow an extra tooth aimed specifically at rulers, who, wanting to prolong their hold on power, go on to subvert egregiously the institutions and processes through which they gained political power in the first place?

    Reader, your guess is as good as mine. But perhaps it is in the interest of the regional political body to grow that extra tooth; its leaders’ survival and the political stability of the entire region may depend on it. But then what about Tinubu himself, the head of state of the regional behemoth Nigeria and current chairman of ECOWAS? Does his victory in the recent presidential elections not remain questionable, being right now the subject of litigation in Nigerian courts? Is Tinubu not throwing stones here at others, who like him, live in glass houses? If so, is his ire against General Tchiani not self-contradictory, not misdirected, being himself a usurper of sorts of political power?

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