Niger’s neighbors and the UN seek to deescalate tensions with last-minute diplomacy

by Michael Nguyen
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Diplomatic Crisis

The situation in Niger is currently marked by uncertainty as neighboring countries and the United Nations engage in last-minute diplomatic efforts to reduce tensions. The question arises whether a regional bloc will carry out its military threat to reinstate ousted President Mohamed Bazoum or if diplomatic negotiations will prevail. This uncertainty has persisted for almost two weeks following the overthrow of Niger’s democratically elected leader by mutinous soldiers.

The West African regional bloc, ECOWAS, had set a deadline for the mutinous soldiers to release and reinstall Bazoum, with the threat of using force if not complied with. ECOWAS members, along with representatives from the United Nations and the African Union, were anticipated to participate in talks in the capital, Niamey, on Tuesday. These discussions come after acting U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland’s attempts to engage with the coup leaders were met with resistance. She described Bazoum as being under “virtual house arrest” and the coup leaders as unresponsive to negotiations for restoring constitutional rule.

The talks are expected to continue throughout the week, with ECOWAS planning another meeting on Thursday in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, to address the situation. Niger’s significance as a partner for the U.S. and European countries in countering jihadi violence has complicated international responses to the coup. If classified as a coup by the U.S., Niger could lose substantial military assistance and aid.

In a region that has witnessed multiple coups, the ECOWAS response to Niger is seen as an attempt to change the pattern of influence by imposing sanctions and threatening military force. However, the junta leading the coup appears uninterested in dialogue and has taken measures like closing the country’s airspace. The time window for military intervention is seen as closing, leaving ECOWAS and other parties searching for alternative solutions.

The junta, led by Gen. Abdourahamane Tchiani, has tapped into anti-colonial sentiments and has even sought assistance from the Russian mercenary group Wagner. Despite pro-junta rallies and displays of support, the junta’s actual level of public backing remains uncertain.

As the region debates the way forward, jihadi groups in Niger have exploited the chaos and reduced foreign military presence to their advantage. France’s suspension of military operations has provided these groups with greater freedom of movement. Amid this complex situation, the jubilation of jihadis and their desire for ECOWAS intervention to reach the capital, Niamey, adds another layer of complexity to the crisis.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Diplomatic Crisis

What is the current situation in Niger?

Niger is facing uncertainty as neighboring countries and the United Nations engage in last-minute diplomacy to deescalate tensions following a coup that ousted President Mohamed Bazoum.

What is the role of the regional bloc ECOWAS?

ECOWAS, the West African regional bloc, had issued a deadline for the mutinous soldiers to release and reinstall Bazoum. They threatened military force if the deadline was not met.

What diplomatic efforts are being made?

Members from ECOWAS, the United Nations, and the African Union are participating in talks to address the crisis in Niger. The talks are taking place in the capital, Niamey.

How did U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland get involved?

Nuland met with coup leaders in Niger but was not allowed to meet with Bazoum. The coup leaders were unreceptive to her appeals for negotiations and the restoration of constitutional rule.

What is the potential impact on Niger’s international relationships?

Niger has been a crucial partner for the U.S. and other countries in the fight against jihadi violence. If the situation is deemed a coup, Niger could lose significant military assistance and aid.

How have jihadi groups responded to the crisis?

Jihadi groups in Niger have taken advantage of the chaos and reduced foreign military presence, celebrating their increased freedom of movement and seeking further instability.

What is the junta’s stance on dialogue?

The junta leading the coup seems uninterested in dialogue, closing the country’s airspace and accusing foreign powers of preparing an attack.

What challenges does ECOWAS face in addressing the situation?

The junta’s lack of willingness for dialogue and the potential absence of regional support for military intervention complicate ECOWAS’ efforts to resolve the crisis.

How has the international community responded to coups in the region?

The response to Niger’s coup by ECOWAS and others is seen as a deviation from their previous approach to coups in neighboring countries like Mali and Burkina Faso.

What could be the implications of the coup on jihadist activities?

The coup and reduced foreign military operations have given jihadi groups in Niger more freedom to operate, potentially exacerbating security challenges in the region.

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