The people of Niger are the sole arbiters of the future course of developments in their country!
In light of the rapidly moving developments and the growing threat of a military intervention by the ECOWAS bloc, as well as the risk of a regional conflagration; the following builds upon the issues highlighted in Liberation’s first statement on the situation in Niger issued on 1 August 2023.
Liberation reiterates its firm opposition to any foreign intervention in the internal affairs of Niger, an independent and sovereign country, and repeats its call for the United Nations to urgently take the lead in mediating and overseeing an amicable political resolution of an escalating crisis which threatens to engulf not only that country but the wider region as well.
We explicitly reject the neo-colonial-esque stances taken by certain countries – both in the West, as well as the West Africa and Sahel region – in reaction to what are essentially the internal machinations of an independent nation.
Liberation maintains that it is at the very least disingenuous for former colonial powers or countries with their own decidedly chequered records when it comes to democracy and human rights to “sound the alarm” over the current developments in Niger, yet refuse to broach any of the wholly legitimate concerns that abound vis-à-vis the dire humanitarian situation or the worsening insecurity that has been allowed to go largely unchecked in the country until the coup d’état last Wednesday (26 July 2023).
Put simply; we refuse to subscribe to the flawed logic which holds that a Niger under the patronage of its former colonial master, France, and more recently the United States, is somehow sacrosanct and to be maintained at any cost.
Liberation laments the distinct lack of progress made in the talks involving the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) delegation to Niamey, coupled with the taking of harsh unilateral measures by neighbouring countries – clearly designed to cripple Niger’s infrastructure and capacity to function, as well as intimidate the sovereign nation, but which ultimately hit the long-suffering ordinary civilian population the hardest.
In recent days, we have witnessed the ironic spectacle of envoys led by Abdulsalami Abubakar, the former military head of state of neighbouring Nigeria – a country with its own woeful track record of coups and human rights abuses – attempt to lay down conditions on the newly formed de facto administration in Niamey if it wishes to avoid a military invasion of Niger by an ECOWAS coalition.
The delegation also included Muhammadu Abubakar, the Sultan of Sokoto, in what appears to be an ill-conceived hark back to the pre-colonial era when the said Sultanate’s domain extended far into the territory of present-day Niger as part of one of the largest empires in Africa during the nineteenth century, making for some decidedly questionable optics.
These talks followed on from the ECOWAS extraordinary summit in Abuja, Nigeria, last Sunday (30 July 2023) which resulted in the regional bloc explicitly threatening the use of force against Niger’s de facto rulers should former president Mohamed Bazoum and his administration not be reinstated within a seven-day deadline – a move openly applauded by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who praised the ECOWAS leaders for their “bold and decisive” actions in response to the crisis.
Pursuant to this threat, a sub-meeting of regional defence chiefs took place in Abuja. However, representatives from Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea, and Guinea Bissau were notably absent from the meeting – with the former three subsequently making clear their support for the new military administration in Niamey and their unequivocal opposition to any armed intervention in Niger. In a joint statement issued on Monday (31 July 2023), the governments of Burkina Faso and Mali warned that “any military intervention against Niger would be tantamount to a declaration of war against Burkina Faso and Mali”. Therefore, the risk of a catastrophic wider conflagration in the Sahel region, already the most destitute and chronically insecure area of Africa, is abundantly clear and cannot be overstated.
This is not to mention the continuing grave threat posed to security and stability in Niger and the wider Sahel by the ongoing violent Islamist insurgency – with a growing conviction held amongst many people in the region, as well as observers, that the insurgency is neither being tackled comprehensively nor decisively by US and French military forces based there as part of a cynical ruse to maintain any underlying rationale for their continued presence in the area.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian government took the step on Wednesday (2 August 2023) of cutting-off the supply of electricity to Niger, prompting rolling energy blackouts in a country reliant on its much wealthier southern neighbour for as much as 70% of its electricity supply. This in a country where already only one seventh of the population is estimated to have access to modern and reliable electricity services, while just four percent of those residing in rural areas have access via the national utility. These measures are naked attempts to punish a blameless, beleaguered, and already suffering civilian population in Niger and do nothing to alleviate the current political impasse in the country.
The UN must act forthrightly, and now, to mediate a political solution to the crisis – one which not only addresses the immediate antecedents to this crisis, but also the twin plagues represented by the ongoing humanitarian emergency in Niger, one of the world’s poorest countries, and chronic insecurity. The UN must also firmly oppose any armed intervention in Niger, irrespective of the support for such an intervention among countries with vested interests there, as well as uphold its territorial integrity as an independent sovereign country and member state… The alternative could very possibly mean a war covering a belt extending right across the African continent, with disastrous consequences.
No force – whether that be France, the EU, the US, or any regional power acting at their behest – has the right to unilaterally exercise its prerogative in Niger. The era of such prerogatives is well and truly over!
While Liberation restates its long-held principled opposition to the notion of coups and extraordinary suspensions of constitutional processes, it maintains that the ultimate arbiters of governance and the course of developments in Niger – or indeed any country – must remain the people themselves.
3 August 2023
Photo: A Ugandan soldier of 341 Battalion serving with the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) holds a rocket-propelled grenade at sunrise 30 April 2012/ CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) Public Domain Dedication