Resolving Niger’s coup d’état and stemming military interventions in ECOWAS states
On July 26, 2023, a coup d’état occurred in Niger when the country’s presidential guard, led by Commander General Abdourahamane Tchiani, detained President Mohamed Bazoum. Tchiani proclaimed himself the leader of a new military junta heading the government of Niger. He later appointed Ali Mahaman Lamine, an economist as the prime minister on 8 August 2023.
Immediately after the coup, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), led by the Nigerian president, Bola Tinubu, gave the Niger junta a week to free the democratically elected president, Bazoum, from house arrest and return power to democratic rule or face military action.
The African Union and the European Union support the ECOWAS decision, but prefer a diplomatic solution of negotiation, not military action. France refuses to recognise the military junta and was ready to support the military options of ECOWAS that is still on the table. France has also refused to recall its ambassador from Niger after the junta gave 48 hours to leave Niger.
At this junction, there are two major solutions to the challenges posed by the military interventions in Niger: first, negotiation and dialogue with the junta in Niger; and second, the reintroduction of the Eco currency created and administered by ECOWAS. I suggest the resumption of negotiations for the introduction of the Eco currency amongst the democratic West African states.
One major fact that should be acknowledged before analysing diplomatic solutions is that the junta effectively made use of anti-France rhetoric and anti-colonialism to gain popularity in Niger. These anti-colonial factors were used in the junta-controlled countries of Burkina-Faso, Guinea, and Mali. As a result, these francophone-speaking countries have now formed an alliance with Niger that an attack on one is an attack on all.
The overall strategy of these juntas is to be able to remain in power. The French government has condemned the coup and waited on the Nigerian-led ECOWAS final decision before responding to the new wave of anti-French policies.
To achieve successful dialogues between ECOWAS and the Niger junta, there is a need to disentangle Niger from other juntas in West Africa and promise the Niger junta amnesty, as they might be afraid of the consequences of returning power to President Bazoum. War is not cheap; we do not want to destroy the little infrastructural and human development in West Africa. We should exhaust diplomacy to get the desired result.
One of the major foreign policy errors that the French government committed in the last decade was France’s destruction of the ECOWAS Eco currency. France, through the instrumentality of its most faithful poodle in West Africa, President Alasane Ouattara of Ivory Coast, hijacked the Eco, the West African currency that was to be launched in 2020 for the 15 West African states. France’s political motive for hijacking the Eco currency was to ensure that Nigeria was permanently kept out of the currency to maintain French monopolistic control of francophone West Africa. Professor Ibrahim Gambari, who served as a Nigerian diplomat, believes that France has always defined itself as the main power bloc in Africa and has always seen Nigeria’s self-definition as an African power as a threat to its interests.
In a 2019 press conference in Abidjan, Presidents Emmanuel Macron and Ouattara announced that the eight West African countries using the CFA Franc would adopt the Eco as their new currency in 2020. The announcement was done simultaneously as ECOWAS was meeting for the final adoption of Eco, also decided for 2020. France’s mimicked version of Eco was to keep France in control of the West African countries using the CFA Franc and was promoted to stymie the growth potential of the original ECOWAS version of the Eco currency.
With the above action, the French destroyed the aspiration of ECOWAS to establish a common currency that would promote trade, development, and unity within West Africa.
ECOWAS, under President Tinubu, imposed sanctions that bit hard on the junta. Tinubu’s decision to turn off the power supply that accounts for about 70 percent of Niger’s electricity was an attempt to compel the junta to return power to President Bazoum. If the Eco currency was in use as originally planned for 2020, it would have been more effective for ECOWAS to impose financial and economic sanctions by cutting off juntas from the West African monetary system if the French government had not destroyed the plan for West Africa’s common currency. It’s a policy failure for the French government to not support Nigeria in leading the economic formation of the Eco currency, but is rather willing to support ECOWAS under the leadership of Nigeria’s attack on Niger.
There is still room for France to support ECOWAS in realising the dream of the Eco currency led by Nigeria and employ diplomacy and negotiation to reinstall the democratically-elected president Bazoum, for the sake of unity, stability of ECOWAS, and global peace and security.
Abiodun Ramon Oseni, a former US Police officer, specialises in International Security at Harvard University.
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