Niger’s coup leaders have shut down the country’s airspace following the expiration of a deadline by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for the reinstatement of deposed President Mohamed Bazoum. The ECOWAS had threatened military intervention, imposing severe economic and travel sanctions, and tens of thousands of coup supporters rallied in Niger’s capital, Niamey. The situation has ignited fears of potential regional conflict, with various West African countries taking sides. Some, like Nigeria, Senegal, and Ivory Coast, have expressed readiness to send troops, while others like Burkina Faso and Mali have warned against intervention.
- Airspace Closure and Support Rally: Niger’s coup leaders closed the country’s airspace in response to ECOWAS’s threats of military intervention, and a massive rally was held in support of the coup in Niamey.
- ECOWAS Stance and Sanctions: ECOWAS condemned the coup, cutting off Niger’s power supply, and had agreed on a possible military action plan if the detained leader was not reinstated by Sunday, although exact next steps remain unclear.
- Divided International Community: France has backed ECOWAS’s stance, while Russia has opposed military intervention. The coup leaders have reportedly sought help from the Russian Wagner mercenary group, which has previously influenced situations in Mali, Central African Republic, and Libya.
- Regional Reactions: West African nations have divided stances on the issue. Countries like Nigeria, Senegal, and Ivory Coast are willing to send troops, but others like Burkina Faso, Mali, and Algeria have warned against a military solution. The Nigerian Senate’s pushback against troop deployment could complicate matters, given Nigeria’s key role in the region.
- Fear of Widening Conflict: The situation has sparked fears of a widening regional conflict, and there are concerns about armed groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda capitalizing on further chaos in the region. There are also strong sentiments among the local population against ECOWAS sanctions and France’s involvement.