Military coup in Niger: a new trouble spot?

Following the military coup in Niger that deposed elected President Mohamed Bazoum, neighbouring states Burkina Faso and Mali have warned against any interference and declared that any military intervention would be seen as a "declaration of war". Paris has begun the emergency evacuation of European citizens. The media are particularly focussed on the roles played by France and Russia.

The Irish Times (IE) /

Isolation driving junta into Moscow’s arms

The West faces a difficult balancing act, The Irish Times comments:

“Western powers, including the US, former colonial power France, the EU, and regional allies in the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have rallied to pressurise the new junta to restore democracy. All have imposed sanctions on the regime of General Abdourahmane Tchiani. ... The challenge for the international community is that by moving too hard to isolate the junta through sanctions — as happened following military coups in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea — it risks pushing the new leaders towards Moscow.”

Club Z (BG) /

Wagner is standing at the gates

The military coup in Niger no doubt had the backing of Prigozhin’s Wagner troops and indirectly of the Kremlin, Club Z writes:

“Russia never misses a chance to infiltrate where there is a state vacuum. ... It’s only a matter of time before Wagner shows up in Niger, as has happened in neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso. The head of the mercenary organisation has already welcomed the coup in an audio message circulated on his Telegram channels. He was also filmed meeting African politicians in St Petersburg.”

Vesselin Jelev
El Periódico de España (ES) /

Consequences of shameless exploitation

El Periódico de España calls for a fresh start in relations between Europe and Africa:

“The coup d’état has succeeded in Niger; there is a bitter open war in Ethiopia, and various conflicts are unfolding in Burkina Faso, Somalia, Congo and Mozambique. ... And throughout the Sahel, al-Qaeda jihadists are prevalent, backed by Wagner. This is triggering numerous migration movements. ... Behind today’s neocolonialism and corruption lies the policy of the first five decades of the 20th century, which led to Africa’s shamelessly exploited ‘enrichment without development’. It is urgently necessary to establish a new system of relations that counteracts Russia’s seduction.”

Antonio Papell
La Libre Belgique (BE) /

Blind rage at ex-colonial power

The many African countries turning away from France will not improve their situation by doing so, La Libre Belgique comments:

“France has not questioned itself faced with an Africa that no longer wants to be dictated to, even if this means opting for hopeless solutions like in Mali. This is an ‘anything but France’ approach that serves no one’s interests and offers no security solutions. Now the government in Niger is falling victim to it, but other states (Togo, Benin, Côte d’Ivoire) are already infected in a region that nobody — to put it mildly — cares about outside the time of the coup.”

Hubert Leclercq
Tygodnik Powszechny (PL) /

Targeting the entire Sahel region

Tygodnik Powszechny sheds light on Russian involvement in the region:

“The desert state of Niger with its rich uranium deposits would be a real treat for the Russians. ... If the Kremlin succeeded in driving a wedge between Niger and the West and France and getting it on its side, Russia would become the de facto master of the entire Sahel. It would only need to bring about a change of power in Chad and replace military dictator Mahamat Déby, who is sympathetic to the West, with its own favourite. The Russians are already working on this. Wagner mercenaries are training Chadian rebels across the southern border in the Central African Republic, and across the northern border in Libya’s Cyrenaica.”

Wojciech Jagielski
De Standaard (BE) /

The West may end up on the losing side

The coup in Niger could become a geopolitical nightmare, fears De Standaard:

“On the global stage, Niger may seem insignificant, but there is a risk that the coup could have far-reaching consequences. If Russia solidifies its influence, it may impact its war against Ukraine. The West faces the risk of ending up on the losing side in various ways. It will lose geopolitical influence, need to seek alternative resource suppliers, and see its attempts to economically isolate Moscow as a military adversary being thwarted.”

Ruben Mooijman
El Periódico de Catalunya (ES) /

Nightmarish exploitation

This is all about Africa’s resources, El Periódico de Catalunya argues:

“The colonisation by Europe was a ruthless subjugation, and decolonisation doesn’t align with the dreams of independence movements. ... Niger is a strategically important country due to the abundance of uranium in its soil. The coup leaders have detained President Mohamed Bazoum, who is likely the last openly pro-Western leader in the region. ... This is not a return to the Cold War era but a new struggle for control over Africa’s resources. Wild capitalism. And the African dream of liberation remains a nightmare.”

Rafael Vilasanjuan
La Repubblica (IT) /

A bitter loss for the West

La Repubblica explains why the EU’s interests are affected:

“Niger is a central hub of the migration routes connecting West Africa with the Mediterranean. The permeability of the Libyan borders has made Niger an outpost of the EU’s (anti-)migration policy on the southern front — similar to Turkey in the east. Niger has also been able to present itself as a bulwark of democracy in a strategically important and contested region that straddles the Sahel, the Sahara and North Africa and has been rocked by a wave of military coups and authoritarian coups since 2020. ... The overthrow of liberal institutions has often led to a curtailment of the West’s influence in the past.”

Luca Raineri
Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

People mistrust France

The Süddeutsche Zeitung explains why the West was unable to protect the democratic government:

“Firstly it has to do with the fact that Niger faces some truly fearsome adversaries: climate change, terrorism, the lack of prospects in a rapidly growing society for which there are already far too few jobs. But it’s also because for good reason many people in the region see the West — and France in particular — not as part of the solution but as part of the problem: as an ostensible helper in times of need that in reality wants above all to secure its grip on Niger’s uranium and keep refugees at bay. The fruits of this frustration could now be reaped by Moscow, just as was the case in Mali.”

Paul Munzinger
Libération (FR) /

Russia will benefit

Libération looks at who will suffer and who will benefit from the new situation:

“UN Secretary-General António Guterres has good reason to be ‘very concerned’. ... First and foremost regarding the local populations, because the main beneficiaries of this institutional instability are the Islamist terrorist groups that are rampant in the region. The events in Niamey are very bad news for France, of course, but also for the US, Niger’s preferred security partner until now. Russia, on the other hand, is no doubt glad to see Western influence undermined like this, although it cannot be assumed that Russia was directly behind this coup.”

Paul Quinio