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Regional Force Preparing to Intervene as Niger’s Junta Refuses to Budge: What to Expect

Regional mediation efforts to reverse the coup in Niger and restore its democracy have failed, leading to tensions as the deadline for possible military intervention by other West African countries approaches. The defense chiefs of the region finalized a plan to use force against the Niger junta if Mohamed Bazoum is not reinstated as president. However, the coup leader declared that any aggression against Niger would be met with an immediate response. The support for the coup has expanded beyond the Presidential Guard to include some soldiers in the Nigerien army command.

What to expect:

This would be the first time in years that the regional bloc known as ECOWAS attempts to forcefully put down a coup in West Africa, which has seen multiple successful coups since 2020. There is a growing likelihood of military intervention, and if the junta resists, the situation could become catastrophic.

ECOWAS would be intervening in Niger while facing opposition from other neighboring regimes, including Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea. Chad, Algeria, and Libya, who are not members of the bloc, are among Niger’s other neighbors. Any military intervention by land would mostly be restricted to Nigeria’s border with Niger.

Niger, with a population of 25 million, is West Africa’s second-largest country in terms of landmass. The strategy for military intervention in the landlocked country is unclear, but it enjoys a territorial advantage. The focus will likely be on the capital, Niamey, where Bazoum is being held.

Nigeria, with its large military strength, is at the forefront of efforts to reverse the coup. However, it could face challenges at home, as its military is already stretched thin and engaged in fighting armed groups within its borders.

An intervention force from Nigeria would need to cross a region occupied by over 200,000 refugees who have fled violence in northern Nigeria. Niger’s international airport in Niamey is close to the presidential palace where Bazoum is being held, making it difficult to overtake. Niger’s strategic importance to the West and its global market presence, including its share of the global supply of uranium, make the situation even more concerning.

There are fears that a military intervention could escalate into a conflict involving forces outside of Africa, with the United States and France supporting the restoration of democracy, while Russia and its private military contractor, Wagner, support the junta. The junta might use its own people as human shields, and collateral damage cannot be avoided.

In the best-case scenario, ECOWAS troops stationed in Niger as anti-coup forces would remain in the country for an extended period, which would undermine the legitimacy of the country’s president. This situation is not beneficial for democracy in Niger or the region as a whole.

Overall, the situation in Niger is tense, with the possibility of military intervention looming. The regional force faces challenges, and the outcome of the intervention remains uncertain.

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