Regional War Could Break Out In Africa After Niger’s Military Attempted A Coup. Here’s Why

If Niger falls, it would be the last country to connect a “coup belt” in Africa, which would destabilize the region.

Regional War Could Break Out In Africa After Niger’s Military Attempted A Coup. Here’s Why

Regional war could be breaking out in Africa after Niger’s military attempted a coup.

Here’s what’s going on.

What Happened?

On July 26, Niger’s presidential guard launched a coup and detained Mohamed Bazoum, the democratically elected president.

Abdourahamane Tchiani, the former chief of the presidential guard, has been declared as the head of a new transitional military government.

This video frame grab image on July 28, 2023 shows General Abdourahamane Tiani, Niger’s new strongman, speaking on national television and reads a statement as “President of the National Council for the Safeguarding of the Fatherland”. (Photo by -/ORTN – Télé Sahel/AFP via Getty Images)

Led by Colonel Major Amadou Abdramane, the group announced the coup via televised broadcast on July 27, claiming to have overthrown the government, despite Bazoum refusal to resign.

However, Bazoum has refused to resign.

Niger’s President Mohamed Bazou he arrives for a meeting with French president Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace. (Photo by Antoine Gyori – Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)

Since being detained in the capital, Niamey, Bazoum kept posting on social media against the coup and meeting with world leaders to gather support.

Niger’s president Mohamed Bazoum met with Chad’s president Mahamat Idriss Déby despite being detained by the military after it attempted a coup.

He even wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post while being held hostage, calling on the US and the international community to step in and stop the coup.

“In Africa’s troubled Sahel region, Niger stands as the last bastion of respect for human rights amid the authoritarian movements that have overtaken some of our neighbors,” he wrote.

Who Is Mohamed Bazoum?

Niger’s President Mohamed Bazoum takes part in a session entitled “The Power of Education” on the second day of the Global Education Summit on July 29, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Tolga Akmen-WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Bazoum is the first democratically elected president in Niger after it gained independence from France in 1960.

After being elected in 2021, he has actively worked on promoting education for girls, reducing the country’s birthrate – which is the highest in the world – and growing the economy.

A voter casts her ballot at a polling station in Niamey on December 27, 2020 during Niger’s presidential and legislative elections. (Photo by ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP via Getty Images)

In fact, the economy is forecast to grow 7% this year after years of stagnation, according to the New York Times.

He has also worked to improve Niger’s security situation by targeting the ISIS insurgency in the country

Why Did The Military Launch A Coup?

Abdourahmane Tchiani and other army commanders held a meeting in the capital, Niamey, Niger on July 28, 2023. (Photo by Balima Boureima/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The coup leaders said they decided to “put an end to [Bazoum’s] regime” to avoid “the gradual and inevitable demise” of the country, NBC News reported, adding that Bazoum had failed to deal with the Islamist insurgency.

However, research indicates Islamist militant attacks have actually dropped in Niger last year, compared to nearby Mali and Burkina Faso.

Reports say the coup had also come after Bazoum decided to dismiss the coup leader, raising tensions between them.

Why Is This Coup Significant?

This is the fifth military coup d’état since Niger gained independence from France in 1960.

It also comes after nearby countries, including Guinea, Mali, Sudan and Burkina Faso also experienced coups in 2021 and 2022.

The string of coups has led to the region being called a “coup belt” with the countries making a chain stretching from the east to west coast of Africa.

Graphic by Sofia Hou / Almost

If Niger falls, it would be the last country to connect the “belt”, which would destabilize the region and create an opening for Islamic militant extremists to expand their presence, according to the New York Times.

Groups linked to the Al Qaeda and the Islamic State are growing rapidly in the Sahel, a vast semi-arid region of Africa that the Sahara Desert in the north and the tropical savannas to the south.

In fact, the Sahel – much of which overlaps with the coup belt – has now surpassed the Middle East and South Asia to become the “global epicenter of jihadist violence,” according to the Global Terrorism Index, the New York Times reported.

What Have The Reactions Been?

Children walk past burned cars outside the headquarters of president Bazoum’s Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism in Niamey on August 7, 2023. (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)

The coup swiftly drew condemnation from the Economic Community of West African States – or ECOWAS – a regional political and economic union in West Africa.

It was also condemned by international groups, including the United Nations, African Union and European Union.

The EU and France cut off financial aid to Niger, resulting in a pro-coup protest attempting to breach the French embassy in Niamey on Sunday July 30.

ECOWAS, headed by Nigeria’s president, imposed sanctions, closing all borders with Niger, banning commercial flights and freezing financial transactions and national assets with immediate effect.

However, it has gone a step further than when dealing with the recent coups in nearby countries.

This time, ECOWAS has given the Niger military a deadline to reinstate Bazoum by Sunday Aug. 6 or it would take “all measures necessary to restore constitutional order, including the use of force.

How Could This Lead To Regional War?

Mohamed Toumba, one of the leading figures of the National Council for the Protection of the Fatherland, attends the demonstration of coup supporters and greets them at a stadium in the capital city of Niger, Niamey on August 6, 2023. (Photo by Balima Boureima/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

In response to ECOWAS’ announcement, Mali and Burkina Faso, which are both run by military governments after recent coups, said they would consider an attack on Niger as “a declaration of war against themselves” and would defend Niger’s coup.

Meanwhile, other nearby countries, Senegal, Cote d’Ivore and Benin said they will contribute troops to help Nigeria and ECOWAS.

France and the US both have troops in Niger to help them fight Islamic militant insurgencies, but it’s unclear to what degree they will intervene.

French President Emmanuel Macron (R) welcomes Niger’s President Mohamed Bazoum prior to a working lunch at the Elysee Palace on February 16, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by Antoine Gyori/Corbis via Getty Images)

And to make things even more complicated, Russia’s Wagner Group may also become involved after Niger’s military asked them for assistance ahead of the deadline, according to AP.

The Wagner Group is already in nearby Mali after the Mali military invited them after expelling French troops.

What’s Happening Now?

A woman holds the image of Niger’s President Mohamed Bazoum who was detained with his family by coup leaders during a protest outside the Niger Embassy, in Paris on August 5, 2023. (Photo by STEFANO RELLANDINI/AFP via Getty Images)

On August 6, the coup leaders ignored the deadline to reinstate Bazoum.

The next day, they closed the country’s airspace indefinitely, citing the thread of military intervention.

ECOWAS has since called for another meeting on Thursday Aug. 10 to discuss its next steps.

More On This

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People In Sudan Are Protesting After The Military Seized Power In A Coup And Shot And Killed Protesters
Chad’s President Has Been Killed On The Frontline Fighting Rebels After He Was Re-elected For A Sixth Term

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