Defense leaders from the West African group of nations known as ECOWAS are meeting to discuss the political crisis in Niger.
The leaders are concerned. The military group that ousted Niger’s President Mohamed Bazoum in July did not answer an ECOWAS request to stand down or face an invasion.
ECOWAS has 15 member countries and is based in Abuja, Nigeria.
Outside security experts said ECOWAS has not been able to prevent leadership takeovers in other West African nations. That includes the recent government overthrows in Burkina Faso and Mali.
This time, however, the group organized a “standby force” that is ready to move on the Nigerien capital of Niamey if Bazoum is not put back in place. In addition, the group put financial and travel restrictions on Niger.
So far, nothing has changed. Defense experts say ECOWAS is running out of ways to put pressure on the group that took power in Niger.
Andrew Lebovich studies northern Africa for the Clingendael Institute, a research group based in the Netherlands.
He said: “An intervention could backfire and damage (ECOWAS) in numerous ways. While a failure to extract major concessions from (the soldiers in control) could weaken the organization…”
Another group of African states, the African Union, met earlier this week to discuss whether it would support a military move by ECOWAS. The African Union includes 55 nations in Africa. The union could prevent a military action by ECOWAS if it felt that the move would destabilize Niger and nearby countries.
The status of who leads Niger is important to western nations, including France and the United States. Both countries have soldiers in Niger. They have been working to train and support local soldiers in their fights against Islamic militant groups. Niger had been one of the last countries in the area with a democratic government.
Since the military group pushed out Bazoum and took control in Niger, the U.S. and France are no longer supporting the Nigerien soldiers.
This makes Niger open to outside attacks. The Associated Press reports that 17 Nigerien soldiers were killed and over 20 were injured in an attack Tuesday in the Tillaberi area in the country’s northwest.
In Niamey, locals are concerned both about a military move by ECOWAS and the effects of financial and travel restrictions. Some of the electric power – most of which comes from Nigeria – has been cut off. Restaurant owners say they cannot keep food cold. The ECOWAS restrictions include limits on who can enter and leave Niger. They are also preventing aid workers from coming in with food and supplies.
Louise Aubin is the coordinator in Niger for the United Nations. She is concerned that food and medical supplies inside Niger could run out because of the border restrictions. The U.N. and other aid groups said 4 million of the 25 million people in Niger needed assistance before the military takeover. They expect that number to increase.
I’m Dan Friedell.
Dan Friedell adapted this story for Learning English based on a report by the Associated Press.
Words in This Story
standby –adj. ready or available in emergencies or on short notice
backfire –v. to have the opposite result of what was desired or expected
extract –v. to get
concessions –n. (usually pl.) things that are given up in an effort to gain something else
destabilize –v. to make something less secure, steady or predictable
run out –v. (phrasal) to become used up with nothing left
We want to hear from you. Are you worried about Niger now that the military group in control has not stepped down?