Are we about to have a war in West Africa? Tension is, indeed, mounting between ECOWAS and the Nigerien military junta. According to DW, West African military chiefs say they have drawn up plans to put down the coup in Niger while regional leaders are still hoping to find a diplomatic solution.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has announced that it is preparing a military intervention in Niger to help the country combat terrorism. The announcement comes after a recent upsurge in attacks by terrorist groups in Niger, including the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS).
Abdel-Fatau Musah, ECOWAS commissioner for political affairs, said their recommendations would be passed on to the heads of state. “All the elements that will go into any eventual intervention have been worked out here, including the resources needed, the how and when we are going to deploy the force,” he said.
ECOWAS has given Niger’s coup leaders until Sunday to step down and free elected President Mohamed Bazoum. The 15-nation body has already imposed commercial and economic sanctions on Niger and sent a delegation to its capital Niamey on Thursday seeking an “amicable resolution.” But a source in the entourage said they were rebuffed and did not stay long, according to Reuters.
The announcement of the ECOWAS intervention has been welcomed by the Nigerien government. General Tchiani has said he will not bow to the pressure to reinstate Bazoum. He denounced the sanctions as “illegal” and inhumane” and urged his countrymen to get ready to defend their nation, according to Aljazeera.
Burkina Faso, Mali, and Guinea; three countries that are all ruled by military juntas, have brought their support to the Nigerien military junta and declared that a military intervention in Niger would be a declaration of war against all of them, and they will therefore use military force to rescue Niger.
The ECOWAS intervention in Niger is a sign of the growing threat posed by terrorism in West Africa. The region has become a major hub for terrorist groups, including ISGS, Boko Haram, and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). These groups have carried out numerous attacks in recent years, killing thousands of people and displacing millions more.
Nigeria, which has the largest armed forces in the region and has previously contributed the most number of troops to other regional peacemaking missions, is set to lead any intervention force in Niger.
It is hard to see the long-term implications of the military intervention in Niger if carried through. But the immediate implications are quite frightening. ECOWAS has until Sunday, at midnight to intervene in Niger. If the military intervention is carried through, there is a very high risk of massive civilian casualties. And more importantly, the intervention may lead to a destabilization of the West African region.
We can only wait until Sunday at midnight to see if West Africa will experience an armed conflict.