HomeCover StoriesHow threat of military invasion to overturn Niger coup will trigger regional...

How threat of military invasion to overturn Niger coup will trigger regional humanitarian crisis


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Written by Idris Mohammed – Member, Daily News 24 Editorial Board.

On 30 July, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) met in Nigeria’s capital Abuja and convened an extra-ordinary summit to address the military coup in Niger. Head of states, foreign ministers and officials from the African Union reviewed and discussed the rationale behind the coup and illegal detention of democratically elected President of Niger Republic, Muhammad Bazoum.

The group collectively condemned the coup and called for the immediate release and reinstatement of Muhammad Bazoum as the President and Head of State of the Republic of Niger. A few hours after the meeting, the military junta addressed the press and reinstated their commitment to remaining in power and rejected the demands from ECOWAS.

In response, Nigeria firstly cut off the electricity supply to Niger, shut down its borders and began the process of obtaining permission for military interventions in Niger as a last resort. The Nigerian government seems ready to use military force to overturn the coup, although the Nigerian Senate urged the government to look at political and diplomatic options rather than the military force. 

Voices in Nigeria against the use of military forces are growing louder every minute. They range from security experts, religious and traditional leaders, down to the citizens of the country. Despite the decision by the members of ECOWAS, Nigeria’s position is complex. It holds the chairmanship of ECOWAS and shares a border and historical and traditional ties with Niger. The anxiety is increasing in Nigeria’s northwest region states, where one in every of five residents of Sokoto is from Niger or has a connection with Niger. The same applies to some part of Katsina, Jigawa and Kebbi states. The notion of invading Niger would be logistically, political, and culturally fraught.

First and foremost, any military invasion of Niger would entail a significant loss of life, resources and generate a serious humanitarian crisis.

Over the last one decade, the two countries have faced attacks by Boko Haram and Islamic State along Lake Chad Basin communities consisting of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states in the northeast region of Nigeria and Diffa in Niger. The same situation is occurring in the northwest region of Nigeria where four Nigerians of Katsina, Sokoto, Zamfara and Kebbi state have been facing protracted banditry conflict that displaced thousands of people. Over 80,000 Nigerians mostly from the mentioned states are currently affected by the banditry and are staying in Maradi as refugees under the care of UNCHR.

West Africa is in a very difficult situation especially Nigeria, where the consequences of multiple crises and conflicts, the Boko Haram/ ISWAP insurgencies in the northeast that displaced millions of people, the banditry conflict that forced thousand civilians out of their farmlands or the protracted farmer-herder/ethno-religious conflicts that graved the north-central and still the current insurgencies that kill security agencies and settlers in the south east region. All these conflict generated unbearable humanitarian issue that the country struggling on daily basis to address, so it would be difficult to contain if Ecowas decided to invade Niger.

In the same vain, as Nigeria is battling with extreme terror related crisis, the Niger invasion may pose serious challenges for the broader region that might have impact on counter-terrorism efforts. The terrorist organizations such as Islamic state will find easier to penetrate through not only Nigeria but also the entire Sahel if eventually Niger engulf into political turmoil

Niger is a key ally in the fight against Boko Haram, Islamic State and bandits. Therefore, invading Niger would result in unnecessary suffering for innocent civilians and would likely exacerbate existing humanitarian crises not only in Niger but also in Nigeria.

An invasion of Niger Republic could destabilise the entire West African region. Given the interconnectedness of nations and the potentials for spill over effects, military action could lead to a chain reaction of instability, engulfing neighbouring countries especially those that have been battling with violent extremists’ attacks like Burkina Faso, Mali, or Chad. Perhaps, creating larger scale crisis that could be challenging to contain in the region.

Diplomacy and peaceful negotiations should always be prioritised over military interventions. ECOWAS should in engage in constructive dialogue not only with Niger military junta but also Burkina Faso, Mali, and Chad. Working through diplomatic channels can offer a path towards resolving the conflict and addressing underlying issues that may have contributed the tension. The United Nations and African Union should facilitate discussions to find common ground and sustainable solutions. By working together to find diplomatic means, we could uphold the values of humanity and avoid the devastating consequences of armed conflict in the region.

Idris Mohammed is a conflict researcher & journalist, he is from Conflict Research Network of West Africa and currently a member of United State Institute of Peace Nigerian Network of Facilitators writes from northwest region of Nigeria.  You can reach out to him via his email address [email protected] or twitter handle @Edrees4p


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