Coups d’états are like a political custom in West African politics. Between 2020 and 2023, West Africa, alone, has experienced six coups. Guinea, Mali, and Burkina Faso were the countries that perpetrated these coups before Niger joined them on the list of the most politically unstable countries on the continent. Niger is now under military rule after President Bazoum, who was democratically elected in 2021, was overthrown by the head of his presidential guard, General Tchiani.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) condemned the coup and gave the military junta in Niger one week to cede power, warning that they will resort to force if order is not restored.
ECOWAS has already imposed a number of sanctions on Niger, including the suspension of all commercial and financial transactions, the freezing of Niger's assets in ECOWAS central and commercial banks, and a travel ban and asset freeze for the military officials involved in the coup attempt.
If the junta does not comply with ECOWAS' demands within one week, the bloc has said that it will send a military force to restore constitutional order in Niger. This would be the first time that ECOWAS has used force to intervene in a coup attempt.
This warning given in Niger is also an ultimatum for ECOWAS in itself. Indeed, ECOWAS has only condemned the previous coups without really taking any drastic measures to assert its authority, legitimacy, and credibility in West African politics. This lack of firmness in the face of the previous coups incentivized putschists to seize power by force without fearing any repercussions. Thus, the coup in Niger is the ultimate test for ECOWAS to demonstrate that it is the highest political and economic authority of the West African sub-region.
The economic sanctions are intended to pressure the junta to cede power and restore democracy in Niger. The sanctions could have a significant impact on the Nigerien economy, as the country relies on trade with ECOWAS member states. The sanctions could also make it difficult for the junta to access financial resources.
The bloc has said that it is committed to restoring democracy and the rule of law in West Africa. It is unclear whether the threat of force will be enough to convince the junta in Niger to cede power. However, ECOWAS has made it clear that it is prepared to take whatever steps necessary to restore order in the country. An ECOWAS military intervention in Niger could have some potential implications.
First, the junta could be ousted and constitutional order restored. This would be the most desired outcome, as it would return Niger to democratic rule. However, it is also the most uncertain outcome, as the junta could resist ECOWAS’ intervention and violence could break out.
Second, the intervention could be unsuccessful and the junta could remain in power. This would be a setback for ECOWAS and would further destabilize the region. It could also lead to a protracted conflict between ECOWAS and the junta, which could further damage Niger’s economy and security.
Third, the intervention could lead to a power vacuum in Niger. If the junta is ousted but no clear successor is in place, it could lead to chaos and instability in the country. This could make it difficult to restore order and could create an opportunity for other groups to seize power.
Fourth, this intervention could have a significant impact on the Nigerien economy. The sanctions that have already been imposed have had a negative impact on the economy, and a military intervention could further damage it. This could lead to increased poverty and social unrest.
Overall, the potential implications of a military intervention in Niger by ECOWAS are complex and uncertain. There is no guarantee that the intervention would be successful, and it could have a number of negative consequences. However, ECOWAS has made it clear that it is prepared to take action if necessary to restore constitutional order in Niger.