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Niger: ECOWAS Military Intervention Confronts Uncertain Prospects, Escalating Risks

ECOWAS Military


Niger: ECOWAS Military Intervention Confronts Uncertain Prospects, Escalating Risks

Senegal, Benin, Nigeria, and Côte d’Ivoire have indicated their readiness to deploy troops

The Community of West African States (ECOWAS), while expressing a preference for diplomatic dialogue, has granted approval for a military intervention against the soldiers who assumed control on July 26th in Niger.

However, experts cast doubt on the feasibility of a high-risk and challenging military operation. The deployment of the “standby force,” which ECOWAS has tasked with peacekeeping missions, has previously been executed in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea-Bissau, and Gambia.

According to Marc-André Boisvert, a researcher and consultant specializing in the Sahel region at the Center FrancoPaix in Montreal, ECOWAS “has never reached a consensus on the specific nature of missions that these forces should undertake.”

Senegal, Benin, Nigeria, and Côte d’Ivoire have indicated their readiness to deploy troops, yet they encounter internal criticism and reservations from fellow West African nations.

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“Basically, the African standby force was not designed to restore constitutional order in a country where there was a putsch, African states are very jealous in general of their sovereignty and especially in the security and defense affairs”, says Elie Tenenbaum, of the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI).

In addition, “It is difficult to release personnel in these armies which are fragile and lack means” , according to him. For the time being, only Côte d’Ivoire has specified the number of troops it would be ready to commit to such an intervention, ie a thousand men.

“Such an operation should mobilize 3,000 to 4,000 soldiers,” said Senegalese General Mansour Seck. The strength of the Nigerien army is estimated at around 30,000 men, including some 11,000 deployed in the theater of operations, said President Bazoum in 2022.

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Both Mali and Burkina Faso have cautioned ECOWAS against any intervention in Niger, cautioning that it could be interpreted as a “declaration of war.” However, there remains uncertainty about the capability of their armed forces to provide support to the Niamey regime, given their ongoing struggles against armed jihadist groups within their own territories.

The consensus among experts underscores the formidable challenges associated with conducting a military operation in Niger or its capital. A ground offensive would compel West African forces to traverse several hundred kilometers through hostile terrain, while an aerial operation targeting the presidential palace, where the deposed president is held, also gives rise to significant uncertainties.

In the latter scenario, analysts suggest that Niamey airport could hold strategic significance for deploying airborne troops.

Amadou Bounty Diallo, an analyst and former Nigerian soldier, said, “The ECOWAS chiefs of staff may aim to seize Niamey airport and target the presidential palace with airstrikes, but it’s important to note that we possess modern anti-aircraft defense systems capable of effectively countering their aircraft.”

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For General Seck, “the airstrip is easy to occupy by the putschists, they just need to put thousands of young people there”, on whom the pilots will not be able to shoot to free it. “It will not be a simple military operation. Getting bogged down is one of the risks involved, it also depends on the determination of the people on the spot,” he said.

The 700-strong presidential guard, who led the coup, form the central core of potential resistance, yet there is ongoing debate about the readiness and combat effectiveness of other units within the Nigerien army in the event of an intervention.

Buhari Olanrewaju Ahmed, a seasoned investigative journalist and climate/environmental reporter with a decade of experience, unravels complex issues and amplifies critical voices. His in-depth investigative work and insightful reporting have earned him recognition as a trusted source of information. Ahmed's unwavering commitment to journalism and exceptional storytelling prowess make him a standout figure in investigative journalism. His work drives meaningful conversations, influences policy decisions, and inspires collective efforts toward a sustainable future.

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