Force Against Force

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A deadline for Niger’s military junta to reinstate the country’s ousted President Mohamed Bazoum ended Sunday, raising the prospect of a military intervention by a powerful West African regional bloc, the Associated Press reported.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) agreed to intervene using force in Niger if the junta leaders did not step down following the coup late last month that deposed President Bazoum.

The threat of force comes after an ECOWAS delegation was unable to meet with junta leader Gen. Abdourahmane Tchiani last week, who analysts said led the coup to avoid being fired.

Meanwhile, the regional bloc’s plan has faced resistance and criticism internally and abroad: Nigeria’s Senate on Saturday pushed back against the proposal and urged Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, the bloc’s current chair, to explore other options.

Niger’s junta closed off the country’s airspace on Sunday following the passing of the deadline, citing “the threat of intervention,” Deutsche Welle reported.

West African nations Mali and Burkina Faso – both ruled by military governments that came into power in coups – warned that intervention would amount to a “declaration of war” against them. Meanwhile, non-ECOWAS members Algeria and Chad oppose the use of force.

It’s uncertain how the West African bloc will respond but the ultimatum does not appear to have deterred Niger’s military rulers: Over the weekend, hundreds of youth rallied in support of the junta.

The military leaders also called on the Russian mercenary Wagner Group, an unofficial arm of the Russian government, for assistance while also severing security ties with Niger’s former colonial master, France, according to Euronews.

Niger became independent from France in 1960.

In response to the coup, ECOWAS nations have imposed a series of sanctions that have severely affected the daily lives of Nigeriens, including soaring food prices and electricity cuts.

The coup in Niger is a major blow to counterterrorism efforts in the Sahel, where jihadist groups are growing and expanding their territory. The United States and its allies had invested heavily in Niger’s military, but the recent coup raises concerns about worsening the security situation in the Sahel.

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