In response to the threat of military intervention from neighboring countries, the leaders of Niger’s coup have taken a significant step by shutting down the country’s airspace until further notice. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) demanded the reinstatement of President Mohamed Bazoum by Sunday, which prompted the junta’s move. ECOWAS had warned of possible military action, and a meeting has been scheduled for Thursday to discuss the next course of action.
In a show of solidarity, Mali and Burkina Faso, both also governed by juntas, announced that they would send officials to Niger. Flightradar24 revealed that a transport plane from Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou, had landed in Niger shortly after the airspace closure.
The growing instability in the region has led France, the former colonial power, to issue a warning to its citizens against traveling to the Sahel region. The French Foreign Ministry advised those currently in the area to exercise caution due to anti-France sentiment. The junta in Niger has claimed to possess information about a potential attack from a foreign power, prompting concerns from ECOWAS member countries about the situation.
ECOWAS had developed a detailed plan for a potential use of force, but there was a preference for diplomacy to resolve the crisis, according to Abdel-Fatau Musah, the bloc’s commissioner for political affairs, peace, and security. President Bola Tinubu of Nigeria, the main regional power, faced domestic opposition to military intervention as senators voted against such action. The situation remains tense as Niger’s junta clings to power, and Italy and Germany have called for an extension to the deadline for President Bazoum’s reinstatement to explore diplomatic solutions.
The coup, which resulted in the deposition of President Bazoum on 26 July, has drawn international condemnation from France, the EU, the UN, and the US. Despite the opposition, the junta’s supporters rallied defiantly in Niamey, the capital city, on Sunday.
Additionally, Burkina Faso and Mali have issued warnings, stating that any external military intervention in Niger would be considered “a declaration of war” against them. Although both countries are ECOWAS members, they have been suspended from the bloc since their own military takeovers.
Niger, a significant producer of uranium essential for nuclear power, was a key ally in the fight against Islamist militants in the Sahel region under President Bazoum’s leadership.
Niger Coup: The Basics
Niger is a vast country located in West Africa, ranked among the world’s poorest nations.
The military coup was justified by citing insecurity and economic issues, although some suggest it may have been prompted by reports of the coup leader facing dismissal.
The situation raises concerns that the military may seek to align with Russia and close French and US bases in Niger, while neighboring countries threaten to use force to end the coup.