Senegal pledges troops to help effort if West African bloc steps into Niger

Senegal pledges troops to help effort if West African bloc steps into Niger

As Economic Community of West African States' one-week deadline to restore constitutional order approaches, threat of military intervention looms over Niger

By Aurore Bonny

DOUALA, Cameroon (AA) – Senegalese soldiers will step in Niger to restore constitutional order if the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) decides to intervene, Foreign Minister Aissata Tall Sall said on Thursday, as the sub-regional military threat looms over the Niger military junta.

"This coup is the last straw," Sall said at a press conference in Dakar, referring to the July 26 coup that deposed Niger President Mohamed Bazoum's government.

ECOWAS issued a one-week deadline to Niger's military junta on Sunday for the constitutional return and release of Bazoum, who was democratically elected in 2021.

The West African bloc has threatened to use force, and its chiefs of staff are currently meeting in Nigeria to discuss this.

Senegal "cannot evade" these decisions and it is with "the conviction that these coups must be stopped – that's why we're going," Sall declared.

She also explained why there had been no intervention in Mali, Burkina Faso, or Guinea, three countries in the transitional phase that support the Niger military junta and are imposing themselves against ECOWAS decisions, of which they are members.

"If we do it in Niger and we haven't done it elsewhere, the real answer is that ECOWAS wanted to put its patience and mechanism to the test by negotiating transitions with Mali, Guinea, and Burkina Faso, to tell them that they took power for the wrong reasons," she said.

The top Senegalese diplomat also deplored the fact that, after carrying out putsches, the military is taking civilian positions, including governors of territorial administrations and directors of national companies, under the guise of increasing insecurity, without putting an end to it.

"That's why ECOWAS decided that now is the time to put an end to it. The Senegalese military will go for all of these reasons," she reaffirmed.

The threat of force issued by ECOWAS has raised concerns in Africa and within the international community. While some observers called for dialogue, others welcomed the decisions of the West African bloc.

The transitional authorities of Mali and Burkina Faso have openly declared that any intervention in Niger would be a statement against their nations.

- Idle threats and deterrents

"What I sense are threats that will not be carried out, staged to impress international opinion. The West can only welcome such initiatives. I don't think ECOWAS can use force to reinstall President Bazoum," Seyni Diop, a security expert, and former Senegalese military official, told Anadolu over the phone.

Several factors would make military intervention in Niger difficult, according to him.

"Niamey, Niger's capital, is located inland from a landlocked country, the nerve center, the political and military center of gravity is practically out of direct reach. It will take a long crossing from Nigeria or Benin, which is separated from Niger by the river that bears its name, to reach Niamey, which remains the strategic objective," Diop explained.

Strategists and planners need to be aware of these geographical factors as well as the scarcity of their military resources, which would come from only a few countries, before embarking on this venture, which he believes is almost doomed to fail.

"When we consider that a large portion of the Nigerien population supports the soldiers who overthrew President Bazoum and that Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea have declared their support for the Nigerien military junta, it becomes easier to say that the ECOWAS military operation will not be launched, given its slim chances of success," he added.

Claude Biao, a writer, and consultant specializing in African conflicts and terrorism, told Anadolu that the threat of force is more of a "means of dissuasion" to get the Niger authorities to change their behavior.

"It's still too early to talk about the use of force. The threat of force only serves to influence the military," he believed.

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