Niger Coup Leader Meets With Ecowas
Following several weeks of rejecting diplomacy from the United Nations, the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States, and the United States, the military government in the Niger Republic has finally agreed to hold talks with ECOWAS to resolve the political crisis in the nation.
The favorable signal from the military leaders followed a Saturday meeting in Niamey with a group of Nigerian Islamic clerics.
The leader of the coup, Abdourahmane Tchiani, explained his refusal to meet with an ECOWAS mission delegation under the command of former Nigerian military leader Abdulsalami Abubakar.
Mr. Tchiani said that the coup leaders were outraged because ECOWAS did not hear them out before giving them an ultimatum, according to a statement signed by Islamic scholar Bala Lau, who led the delegation of Nigerian Islamic clerics to meet with the coup leader in Niamey.
However, he expressed regret for his actions and said that the junta was open to pursuing peace and diplomacy to resolve the situation.
Mr. Tchiani asserted that the rebellion was well-intended, stating that it was carried out to prevent an imminent threat that would have affected both Niger and Nigeria. However, the statement did not quote him as identifying the impending danger.
WHAT CAUSED THE COUP?
The deteriorating economic outlook and rising levels of insecurity made the country’s fragility worse.
Despite an increase in foreign forces, particularly from the United States and France, as well as military bases in Niger, the leadership had been unable to prevent insurgent assaults. The nation is home to numerous insurgent organizations, including Al-Qaeda and Islamic State affiliates, as well as Boko Haram.
In the past decade, such attacks have caused thousands of fatalities and displacements. Hundreds of young people congregated in Niamey, the capital, to celebrate the July coup, brandishing Russian flags and chanting “Wagner.” This demonstrates that some Niger citizens think the military, which receives support from Russia and the private military contractor Wagner Group, would be more successful in battling insurgents.
In addition to insecurity and economic stagnation, two additional factors may have contributed to the recent coup.
First, the ethnicity and legitimacy of former president Mohammed Bazoum were contentious issues during the previous election campaign. Bazoum is a member of the Arab minority in Niger and has always been labeled as a foreigner.
Secondly, the military has not been pleased with the large number of foreign military bases and personnel in the country. They believe that this diminishes them. In the struggle against regional insurgencies, Niger is a crucial ally of Western nations. Massive French investments in Niger’s mineral industry are another cause for its security concerns.
US MILITARY INVOLVEMENT
Officials and analysts say that the 1,100-strong United States military presence in Niger has been crucial to combating Islamist militants in the Sahel region. However, the revolt in Niger last month has raised concerns about whether the United States can continue to maintain that presence.
Before the coup, American diplomats painted an image of an imperfect but more stable democratic government than others in the region.
A U.S. official told NBC News on July 25: “There’s a public perception of general corruption, but it’s not as bad as other countries in the area.” Later that day, military and security authorities overthrew Mohamed Bazoum, the democratically elected president of Niger.
The U.S. response to the rebellion raises concerns about how effectively the West will be able to combat Islamist terrorist groups in a region at risk of becoming a failed state.
While rumors of a coup in Niger had circulated for some time, U.S. officials were caught off guard when it actually occurred, according to more than a dozen current and former U.S. diplomatic and military officials. The U.S. has not prioritized Africa for years and does not have enough personnel in the region. The United States had no ambassador in Niger at the time of the rebellion.
When the coup began, it took U.S. officials days to acknowledge that it could not be reversed without international military intervention. White House National Security Council officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment when asked why the United States was caught off guard.