Growing support for Niger's overthrow casts doubt over ECOWAS military Intervention
A rally of thousands of Niger’s citizens took to the streets of the capital on Thursday 3rd August, in recognition of the anniversary of the country’s independence from the colonial rule of France, which ended on 3rd August 1960. Protesters pledged their support to the ousters of President Mohamed Bazoum, while proclaiming an end to western and regional interference. The protesters chanted anti-French slogans and waved Russian flags.
The position of Niger’s military ousters of President Bazoum, has been bolstered in the last week by support from other former colonial ruled neighbours Mali and Burkina Faso, who announced in a joint statement on Monday, their full support for their ‘brothers and neighbours’ in Niger.
Intervention will be seen as a declaration of war
In a televised address on Monday, Ibrahim Traoré, Burkina Faso’s recently declared military leader, spoke on behalf of the coalition and said:
‘Any military intervention against Niger would be tantamount to a declaration of war against Burkina Faso and Mali.[The] disastrous consequences of a military intervention in Niger… could destabilise the entire region’
Ibrahim Traoré, the young President of Burkina Faso, has become an heroic figure amongst the disillusioned and desperate in Africa
Nine months ago, Burkina Faso successfully expelled the French armies from its soil, and inaugurated as President, the charismatic leader, Ibrahim Traoré, a 35 year old, former graduate of University of Ouagadougou, where he was a key player in the Association of Muslim Students.
Traoré, subsequently delivered a speech, which went viral on social media and which seems to have captured the hearts and minds of Africans – especially the young, across the continent. He spoke to the despair of many fellow Africans, when he referred to western attempts to destroy the pan-African project.
‘The questions that many of my generation are asking is the following, if I may sum up. It is not to understand how Africa with so much wealth on our soil, with a generous nature, water, sun in abundance, is today the poorest continent. Africa is a hungry continent and how is it that our heads of state, are crossing the world to beg? These are the questions that we ask ourselves and that we have no answer so far. We have the opportunity to forge new relations and I hope that these relations can be the best to give a better future for our peoples. As for Burkina Faso, today we have been confronted for more than eight years with the most barbaric, most violent, form of neocolonialism – imperialism!. Slavery is still imposed on us.’
'A slave that does not rebel, does not deserve pity'
‘A slave that does not rebel, does not deserve pity!’ He has said that the African Union and all other regional bodies, must stop condemning Africans who decide to fight against their own puppet regimes of the West.
His bold statements it would seem, have endeared him to the many struggling citizens across Africa who are fraught with economic deprivation, in states rife with corrupt governments and international interference.
Whilst the deadline set by members of ECOWAS for restoring President Bazoum to power, rapidly reaches its end, Western powers and regional forces, who have entertained military intervention, will be reflecting on the growing coalition of states (now including Guinea) which have pledged their support to the ousters and the potential for any armed intervention to become an extended and disastrous enterprise.
The President of Guinea cautions against any form of intervention
The President of The Republic of Guinea on Tuesday, warned the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), against any planned sanction and military intervention in the Republic of Niger. He added that sanctions against the military regime in Niger, including military intervention are an option that cannot be a solution to the current problem, but would lead to a human disaster whose consequences could go beyond the borders of Niger. The statement read:
‘The Guinean authorities pay tribute to the brave populations of Niger for their high sense of patriotism and salute the republican spirit and maturity of the Defence and Security Forces who favoured the best interests of their nation by choosing to come together to find solutions to Niger's problems.
The CNRD remains convinced that the new authorities will make every effort to guarantee stability and harmony in Niger and the Sub-Region.
The sanctions measures advocated by ECOWAS, including military intervention, are an option that cannot be a solution to the current problem but would lead to a human disaster whose consequences could go beyond the borders of Niger.
As a result, the CNRD refrains from applying these illegitimate and inhumane sanctions against the brotherly people and the Nigerien Authorities, and urges ECOWAS to return to better feelings.’
The President of Guinea’s statement ended with his urging the ousters to restore President Bazoum and simultaneously attempted to his affinity with their cause in:
‘…reaffirming its pan-Africanist vision… the brother peoples of Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Guinea aspire to more recognition and respect for their sovereignty’
UN Study finds most citizens of coup prone African countries believe the army should take over when a government is incompetent
The members of ECOWAS and their international partners - including France, the US and the EU, will also be considering the findings of a UN study published last month. The study was the result of an extensive survey of opinions of African citizens across countries, which had recently experienced military coups or other undemocratic changes of government. The report read:
‘A possible regional-level scenario might see the military juntas in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso team up" and challenge the established regional body (ECOWAS) response to coups, taking advantage of ‘new international alliances’
The report suggested that popular support for military coups in Africa, were:
‘symptomatic of a new wave of democratic aspiration that is expanding across the continent’
The study underlined the frustration of a largely young, frustrated population, totally unhappy with the existing political and economic frameworks – concluding that this has led to a lack of faith in deliverables from democratic elections and a belief that it is completely acceptable for the army to take over when a government is shown to be incompetent.
Algeria also cautions against military intervention
Two days ago on Wednesday August 2nd, the Algerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, warned against resorting to foreign military intervention to restore constitutional order in Niger, whilst urging the reinstatement of President Bazoum. The Ministry issued a statement, which said:
‘Algeria cautions, calls for prudence and restraint in the face of aspirations of foreign military intervention, which unfortunately appear to be real and feasible options, while being factors that only complicate and exacerbate the current crisis… Constitutional order must be returned through peaceful means so as to prevent brotherly Niger and the entire region from sliding further into problems of insecurity and instability’
EU cuts off aid and insists it will not recognise the putsch government of Niger
The EU’s response was unequivocal. A statement from the EU’s senior diplomat, Josep Borrell, issued just after the overthrow said:
‘The European Union does not recognise and will not recognise the authorities from the putsch in Niger. All cooperation in the security field is suspended indefinitely with immediate effect. [President] Bazoum remains the only legitimate president of Niger’