Military coup in Niger: how to react?

The Economic Community of Western African States (Ecowas) will hold a meeting today to discuss how to react to the political situation in Niger. The coup plotters have refused to reinstate the democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum and the constitutional institutions. The military junta which is now in charge in Niger also ignored a deadline after which Ecowas had threatened with military intervention. Europe’s press discusses what the West can do.

Avvenire (IT) /

An important partner not just for raw materials

Avvenire sees considerable cause for concern:

“Many European countries realised after the military coup that Niger is not only a strategic supplier of about a third of the uranium for French nuclear power plants, but also a key partner in controlling the transit of migrants and refugees in West Africa. Since September 2016 the country has been stemming the flow of people from various countries of origin who want to cross Niger to reach North Africa. ... Many of these people are heading for Europe. Impoverished Niger is also home to around 200,000 refugees fleeing jihadist violence in Mali and Burkina Faso.”

Maurizio Ambrosini
Adevărul (RO) /

Offer more than just development aid

The West needs to become a more attractive partner for African countries like Niger, says Adevărul:

“The big problem is and remains the policy of the West — the US, France and Europe — towards Africa. Although these countries provide the bulk of the humanitarian and development aid, this policy is rather unattractive for these countries and fails to address their immediate needs and expectations. Certainly, the so-called revenge of the colonies, in this case against France, also plays an important role right now. ... But the problems caused by the Russian and Chinese interventions must be resolved. The West’s approach must be altered and adapted to the new realities.”

Iulian Chifu
hvg (HU) /

A two-edged sword

Ultimately, both sanctions and a military intervention would benefit the jihadists, hvg points out:

“The question is whether Paris and Washington, as well as their allies in Africa, are really determined to take up arms for Niger. A prolonged war would only cause even greater chaos. The sanctions and aid cuts imposed on Niger by the West and Africa are already undermining the country’s hard-won relative stability. And all this plays above all into the hands of the jihadists.”

Imre Keresztes
Der Standard (AT) /

Soldiers have no business in politics

Ecowas must put an end to the military junta, says Der Standard:

“Soldiers belong in barracks. Or perhaps on a military training ground. But they have no business in politics. ... Should the Ecowas presidents back down now? If they do, they can forget their confederation. This should not be a carte blanche for sabre-rattling operations. But the adventures of the West African officers must finally come to an end.”

Johannes Dieterich
De Volkskrant (NL) /

Avoid military confrontation

The Ecowas ultimatum has made the situation in and around Niger even more explosive, De Volkskrant warns, hoping for a diplomatic solution:

“First and foremost for the people of poverty-stricken Niger. But also because of the central role of this country as the West’s last ally in the region in the fight against Islamist terror and in the efforts to stop migrants from heading for Europe. ... We must hope that Ecowas will take more time to seek diplomatic solutions and increase the pressure on Niger with appropriate sanctions. Western countries — and above all France, which has major economic interests in the country — would do well to pause to reflect for a while so as not to further fuel anti-Western sentiment among Niger’s population.”

Carlijne Vos
Cumhuriyet (TR) /

Nigeria must fear for its status

For neighbouring Nigeria the stakes are very high indeed, explains Göktürk Tüysüzoğlu, an expert on international relations, in Cumhuriyet:

“With the aim of generating high revenues from its oil and gas reserves, Nigeria aspires to become one of the key players in the EU energy market in the medium term. It is considered the most important country in sub-Saharan Africa, but now a wave of change seems to have begun with the potential to have a negative impact on this role, the country’s relations with Western players and even its own political structure in the long run. ... The fact that Nigeria’s call for intervention in Niger has been rejected not only by Chad and Algeria, but also by opposition figures in Ghana, indicates the direction in which things are likely to develop.”

Göktürk Tüysüzoğlu
TSF (PT) /

Moscow won’t mess with the US

Political scientist Raul M. Braga Pires writes in TSF:

“The recent ‘hot summer’ coup in Niger follows the same chaotic social pattern as in the rest of the Sahel. The problems of a Malian are the same as those of a Nigerien, but this is a coup d’état without Russian influence. The Russians had drawn a red line because of the two US drone bases in Niger. Niger is the most important American ally in the Sahel, the Russians know that. And the Americans do not want to lose this ‘drone carrier’ in the heart of a region full of militant jihadists and their sympathisers, whose movements are monitored as a priority.”

Raul M. Braga Pires
La Repubblica (IT) /

The ball is in Nigeria’s court

La Repubblica explains:

“The operation will need the basic support of Nigeria, the giant in the region with 214 million inhabitants and a large army (and a 1500-kilometre-long border with Niger). President Bola Tinubu is determined to stop the coup plotters. But on Saturday, the Nigerian Senate rejected military intervention. ... The president can override the vote, and he intends to do so. The constitution stipulates that the army can fight abroad without Senate approval if there is an ‘immediate risk or danger’, which is what Tinubu sees in the coup in Niger, considered ‘one coup too many’ after those in three other countries in the Sahel (Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea) in the past three years.”

Leonardo Martinelli
taz, die tageszeitung (DE) /

Intervention would be too risky

Military intervention would be fatal, the taz warns:

“Niger’s coup is a result of internal problems that cannot be solved from the outside, especially not by its big neighbour Nigeria with its own history of military coups. ... In the case of a Nigerian military intervention in Niger, two armies with historically bad reputations would wage war on the backs of all these people. The human suffering would be immense, the risk of nationalist pogroms would be high and could spread very quickly to other countries in West Africa.”

Dominic Johnson
Causeur (FR) /

Staying out of this is not an option

France must take action, writes columnist Pierre d’Herbès in Causeur:

“It’s in France’s interest to act quickly before its strategic competitors — Russia or the US — do so in its place. After suffering many defeats and imponderables in recent years, France cannot afford to just to allow itself to remain a spectator. But the government seems paralysed by the accusation of colonialism that direct intervention could draw. ... Anti-French sentiment is a reality, but it is not representative of the entire population. ... Ultimately, France’s military intervention alongside Ecowas is necessary, otherwise it will be the loser, whatever the scenario.”

Pierre d’Herbès
Jutarnji list (HR) /

The West must change its strategy

After another coup in West and Central Africa the international community should carefully weigh its response, Jutarnji list warns:

“It is watching the situation in Niger with concern, aware that the consequences of the coup will be felt far beyond West Africa’s borders. ... The most important question is whether the Western countries will learn their lesson and change their approach to interfering in African affairs under the pretext of bringing peace and democracy. For African countries are unhappy with international reactions to the coups d’état, especially when they hear that their partners prioritise the security of their own countries instead of bringing those responsible for corruption, criminality and nepotism to book.”

Iva Badanjak
De Volkskrant (NL) /

Europe losing another important ally

The EU cannot afford to lose influence in the Sahel, warns De Volkskrant:

“Europe needs the Sahel: for raw materials, to get migration under control and in the fight against jihadists. With the coup in Niger, Europe is once again losing a crucial ally. ... Europe conquered the world and lost it again with decolonisation. In the 1990s it lost interest in Africa, which was seen as a lost continent. But in an insecure world, Africa, and especially the Sahel, has once again become a crucial hub. Europe is still Africa’s biggest trading partner and investor. But it must fight to maintain its influence in its former ‘possessions’. Its colonial past is catching up with it.”

Peter Giesen