Antinekar al-Hassan, a key political adviser to ousted President Mohamed Bazoum, issued a grave warning regarding the potential consequences of military intervention in the strife-torn nation of Niger. Al-Hassan's statement comes as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) grapples with the dilemma of reinstating Bazoum without inadvertently sparking a broader conflict.
Amidst a backdrop of political turmoil and military unrest, Al-Hassan argued that military intervention in Niger could set the stage for a larger war that engulfs the entire African continent. His assessment is founded on the belief that ECOWAS' involvement in a military campaign would drag neighboring countries into a destructive spiral.
The crisis was set in motion on July 26, when the Nigerien military, led by General Abdourahamane Tchiani, arrested President Mohamed Bazoum. The arrest prompted ECOWAS to issue a threat of military deployment unless Bazoum was reinstated to power. The deadline for this action has already lapsed, casting doubt on the regional organization's ability to enforce its ultimatum.
In response to ECOWAS' threat, the new military government in Niger has shown defiance, refusing any dialogue with Bazoum and maintaining that he does not intend to relinquish power voluntarily. This stance has left ECOWAS with the daunting task of devising and executing a successful intervention strategy that requires a unified political decision by its member nations.
Key players in the region are divided over the appropriate course of action. Chad and Guinea have voiced opposition to both economic sanctions and military intervention, emphasizing the importance of regional stability. On the other hand, Burkina Faso and Mali perceive any form of military action against the capital, Niamey, as a direct declaration of war against them.
ECOWAS' contingency plans involve assembling a force of approximately 25,000 troops, primarily drawn from Nigeria, a neighboring country with substantial military capabilities. Al-Hassan's assertion that ECOWAS is unlikely to pursue military intervention highlights the apprehension surrounding the potential consequences of such a move.
Adding to the complexities of the situation, the military government in Niamey has accused France of exacerbating the crisis by releasing terrorists and violating the nation's airspace, allegedly to destabilize the country. In response, France categorically denied these allegations, asserting that its actions were carried out under a pre-existing military pact with Bazoum's government. France further emphasized its commitment to maintaining a military presence in Niger.