Analysts warn of a crisis of legitimacy in regional countries as efforts to restore democratic rule in Niger face mounting challenges following the recent military coup that ousted President Mohamed Bazoum.
Defense chiefs from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) convened in Ghana on Thursday to address Niger's escalating crisis after mutinous soldiers seized power last month. Despite an ultimatum for the release and reinstatement of President Bazoum's passing, the situation remains unresolved, with the president still under house arrest in Niamey.
ECOWAS recently authorized the deployment of a standby force to restore constitutional order in Niger, but the timing and feasibility of such intervention remain uncertain. Conflict experts suggest that assembling a force could take weeks or months.
The bloc's previous attempts to prevent coups in neighboring countries like Burkina Faso and Mali have yielded limited success, casting doubt on the efficacy of military intervention. Meanwhile, the junta in Niger appears entrenched, leaving ECOWAS with few viable options.
Andrew Lebovich of the Clingendael Institute underscores the challenges facing ECOWAS, noting the risks of intervention backfiring and the potential political fallout from a failure to extract concessions from the junta.
The African Union's Peace and Security Council is deliberating whether to support military action, but its decision remains pending. The council's stance could influence ECOWAS's legal justification for intervention.
Niger's strategic importance in counterterrorism efforts has drawn significant Western support, but the coup has disrupted military operations, leading to a surge in jihadist attacks. The suspension of military cooperation by France and the United States has further complicated the security situation.
Meanwhile, ECOWAS sanctions are exacerbating humanitarian challenges in Niger, with disruptions to energy supplies and border closures hindering aid delivery. Aid agencies warn of worsening food insecurity and supply shortages, heightening the urgency for a resolution to the political impasse.
As tensions escalate in Niamey and the humanitarian crisis deepens, the region grapples with the urgent need for political stability and democratic governance.