ABUJA, Nigeria — The stance of West Africa’s regional bloc generally known as ECOWAS within the army takeover in Niger is obvious: “We’ll stand with our folks in our dedication to the rule of legislation,” its chairman, Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, stated on the physique’s assembly this week.
The 15-nation bloc summoned its protection chiefs to debate its menace to “take all measures crucial (that) could embody the usage of drive” if ousted Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum will not be reinstated inside one week. ECOWAS is resolved to make use of army drive after financial and journey sanctions used towards the coup plotters failed, in keeping with a Western diplomat in Niamey who didn’t need to be recognized for safety causes.
How the bloc would perform its menace stays unclear given its lack of coordination in offering safety regionally and formally with the U.S. State Division in Niger, stated Aneliese Bernard, director of Strategic Stabilization Advisors.
“There’s not sufficient precise belief amongst ECOWAS members, and that lack of belief is what’s going to break any kind of coordinated response,” Bernard stated.
However this is what we will inform up to now on how such a army possibility may play out:
HAS ECOWAS INTERVENED MILITARILY IN MEMBER COUNTRIES BEFORE?
That is the primary time in recent times that ECOWAS has thought of the usage of drive to intervene and restore democracies in nations the place the army took over.
Amid the resurgence of coups in West and Central Africa, 4 nations are run by army governments within the area, however the bloc has unsuccessfully tried to return democracies in these locations. Its greatest shot has been financial sanctions that always find yourself with no impact apart from squeezing the residents already dealing with a excessive price of poverty and starvation.
Nonetheless, ECOWAS has used drive in current historical past to revive order in member nations, most lately in 2017 in Gambia after longtime President Yahya Jammeh’s refusal to step down after he misplaced the presidential election. However even in that case, the transfer had concerned diplomatic efforts led by then-presidents of Mauritania and Guinea whereas Jammeh seemed to be performing on his personal after the Gambian military pledged allegiance to the winner of the election, Adama Barrow.
ECOWAS additionally operated a regional peacekeeping operation generally known as ECOMOG that was led by Nigeria within the Nineties and early 2000s to assist restore order in a number of nations, from Liberia when forces had been first deployed in 1990 in the course of the lethal civil conflict to Sierra Leone in 1997 when the democratically elected authorities of Ahmed Tejan Kabbah was overthrown.
CAN A MILITARY INTERVENTION IN NIGER WORK?
The army in landlocked Niger — which depends on neighbors like Nigeria for electrical energy provide and Benin for port operations — could not have the ability to maintain out for lengthy towards a joint ECOWAS drive, stated Bacary Sambe, a battle researcher with the Senegal-based Timbuktu Institut suppose tank.
Analysts have stated the success of such a army intervention would additionally depend upon how ECOWAS is ready to coordinate amongst its members and with exterior our bodies just like the African Union. There are already indicators of a scarcity of synergy: ECOWAS gave the Niger junta a one-week deadline, shorter than the 15-day ultimatum the African Union handed them to return to their barracks.
There are additionally financial limitations to how logistics and financing for such a drive might be carried out, leaving a window open for Western help, stated Kabir Adamu, the founding father of Beacon Consulting, an Abuja-based safety consulting agency.
“A army intervention can be a bit troublesome, nevertheless, there are alternatives within the Western world and France. Within the case of the monetary problem, that may be addressed by help from different nations, likewise the technical problem,” Adamu stated.
The resistance threatened by different nations run by regimes — Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea — may additional complicate ECOWAS’ response. The 4 nations share borders which may make it simpler for them to crew up throughout the Sahel area within the huge arid expanse south of the Sahara Desert, ranging from Guinea on one finish to Niger on the different.
WHAT COULD BE THE CAPACITY OF AN ECOWAS MILITARY FORCE?
In December, the bloc stated it was decided to arrange a regional drive to intervene in events like coups however there was no phrase since then on establishing such a drive or how it will function.
When it comes to numbers although, it’s believed that ought to ECOWAS determine to deploy safety forces in Niger, their quantity can be way over the 7,000 members of the multinational drive despatched to take away Jammeh from workplace.
Nigeria alone has West Africa’s largest armed drive with 230,000 personnel, although not all are frontline troops.
9 of the highest 20 nations with the very best army in Africa are from remaining West African democracies, in keeping with International Hearth Energy, which ranks army energy. Solely Nigeria, ranked fourth, is among the many high 5, whereas Twenty first-placed Mali is the highest-ranked among the many 4 nations which have lately witnessed coups.
HOW MUCH EXTERNAL INFLUENCE FROM THE WEST AND RUSSIA COULD WE SEE IN NIGER?
An ECOWAS-led army intervention in Niger and the ensuing resistance from Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea may hold West and different components of Africa sandwiched in “the center of a geopolitical battle between the West and Crimea,” stated Adamu with the Abuja-based Beacon Consulting.
The coup in Niger may lengthen the attain of Russia’s personal army group Wagner in West Africa the place it has emerged as the popular safety companion, from Mali the place they’ve helped struggle jihadi teams to Burkina Faso the place the regime has hailed Russia as a “strategic ally” after ousting French troops in February.
Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin welcomed the army takeover as “the struggle of its folks (Niger) towards the colonizers,” referring to France, which together with the U.S. has hundreds of troops in Niger, seen because the final remaining Western ally within the Sahel.
“The army junta (in Niger) cannot take a look at Russia (however) it is determined by how far it needs to go,” Adamu stated.
Sam Mednick in Niamey, Niger, and Baba Ahmed in Bamako, Mali, contributed.