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Niger: the Cedeao ultimatum expires without any military intervention, but the option remains on the table

The impression is that the countries of the Economic Community of West African States are divided internally. This is the case of Nigeria, whose Senate voted last Saturday against the authorization requested by President Bola Tinubu to intervene


© Agenzia Nova - Reproduction reserved

Ten days after the coup d'état in of Niger which led to the ousting of the democratically elected president Mohamed Bazoum, the feared military intervention by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS/CEDEAO) hasn't been there yet. Although the ultimatum expired yesterday at midnight, in fact, at the moment there are no signs that suggest an imminent intervention, although the situation in the country remains extremely tense. And a new Cedeao summit, meanwhile, has been convened by Nigerian President Bola Tinubu for 10 August.


Yesterday evening, a few hours after the expiry of the ultimatum, the coup military junta ordered the closure of the airspace, fearing a threat from two unspecified West African countries "supported by a foreign power" and reiterating that any State involved in any intervention will be considered co-belligerent. Meanwhile, the French national airline Air France has decided to suspend flights to Niamey, Niger, "until further notice", while services to Bamako, Mali, and Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, will be suspended until 11 including August.


The impression, however, is that even the countries of Cedeao are split internally. This is the case, for example, of the Nigeria, whose Senate voted last Saturday against the authorization requested by the president Tinubu – who also holds the rotating presidency of the regional organization – to intervene, approving a resolution condemning the coup but ruling out military options, and urging President Tinubu to step up negotiations with the coup plotters by sending back a high-level delegation in Niamey. For Nigerian Senators, Nigeria's military is ill-equipped and unprepared to fight a war. Under the Nigerian constitution, the president is required to take account of the opinion of parliament, unless there is a direct threat to the sovereignty of the country. An element, the latter, which makes it unlikely that the head of state, who took office only two months ago, would force it.


The voice of the opposition was also joined by that of the Nigerian National Center for the Coordination of Alerts and Responses (Ospre), a study center of the Nigerian government, which advised against a military intervention in Niger, which would be "expensive and unfeasible" and would lead to "counterproductive consequences for West Africa". According to the Ospre, Cedeao should therefore not only suspend the military option, but also ban any military intervention in Niger by foreign forces, since this would transform the country into a "vortex of instability" in the region. "Precipitated military action against the new regime will surely destabilize Niger and, by extension, the Sahel", reads a 12-page report reported by the newspaper "Premium Times". A possible Cedeao military intervention, led by Nigeria as the hegemonic power of the region, would have to reckon with numerous resistances, if not with openly hostile positions within the African giant. This is the case, for example, of Simon Ekpa, leader of the government in exile of the self-proclaimed Republic of Biafra, who has declared that he will support the military juntas of Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso if the Nigerian army were to intervene. “We are fighting for economic freedom and the complete freedom of our people. If Nigeria leads a military invasion of the Republic of Niger, Biafra will stand by them. Over 70 million Biafrans support all nations that want to free themselves from modern colonialism,” he said.


The position of neutrality expressed by theAlgeria, a country that shares almost a thousand kilometers of border with Niger. Yesterday the president Abdelmadjid Tebboune in fact, he reiterated that his country will not use force against its neighbors. "A military intervention could set fire to the entire Sahel region and Algeria will not use force with its neighbors," Tabboune said in an interview with local media. Already last Friday the Algerian Foreign Minister, Ahmed Attaf, had spoken of the need to activate all diplomatic and peaceful ways and means "to avoid the choice of resorting to force, which would only aggravate the situation in Niger and the whole region". However, the head of Algerian diplomacy clarified that Algeria rejects the military coup against the legitimately elected president and is asking for his return to constitutional office. Same position expressed by Chad, another country that shares over a thousand kilometers of border with Niger but which, like Algeria, is not part of Cedeao. “Chad will never intervene militarily. We have always supported dialogue. Chad is a facilitator,” N'Djamena's defense minister Daoud Yaya Brahim said over the weekend.


Although the ultimatum has now expired, the military option still remains in the field. According to military sources quoted by the French broadcaster "Rfi", the heads of state of the sub-regional organization are working on the possible rapid holding of a new summit, to be held in virtual or face-to-face mode, in view of a possible military intervention in Niger. At the Abuja summit last week, the number of battalions that will take part in any intervention was already agreed. Nigeria would remain the driving force of the operation with a force of around 5 men who can be rapidly mobilised. To appease the reluctance of countries such as Algeria or the Senators' Forum of northern Nigeria, the Cedeao is also thinking of targeted operations, the authorization of which will have to come exclusively from the heads of state. However, the sending of a new regional diplomatic mission is not excluded, after the previous one - led by former Nigerian president Abdulsalami Abubakar - did not receive a good reception, being forced to leave the country without having met the head of the junta putschist Abdourahamane Tchiani. According to reports from diplomatic sources, a US delegation could also be part of the mission. Meanwhile, a joint delegation of the coup governments of Burkina Faso and Mali, led by Colonel Abdoulaye Maiga, Minister of State for Territorial Administration and spokesman for the Bamako government, arrived in Niamey to "show the solidarity of the two countries to the fraternal people of Niger".


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© Agenzia Nova - Reproduction reserved


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