COUPS IN NIGER
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- People in Niger awoke to a divided country after mutinous soldiers claimed to have ousted the president.
- But the government said it will never accept their rule and has called for the population to reject it.
What is a Military Coup?
- A military coup is a situation when the military violently or non-violently overthrows an existing political regime. It also goes by the terms, ‘ousting,’ ‘overthrow,’ ‘putsch,’ or ‘takeover.’
- No matter the term it bears, it’s typically illegal, and unconstitutional and involves the seizure of power by the military, political faction, or a dictator.
- A coup is successful when the coup organizers seize and hold power for at least seven days and a coup in the works or unsuccessful coup is termed a ‘coup attempt’.
The recent coup in Niger
- The mutinous soldiers, who call themselves the National Council for the Safeguarding of the Country, took to state television and announced they had seized control because of the deteriorating security and bad economic and social governance of the nation’s 25 million people.
- They said all institutions had been suspended and security forces were managing the situation and urged external partners not to interfere.
- The attempted coup was allegedly sparked by the head of the presidential guard, General Tchiani, whom the president had planned to relieve from his position, Niger analysts say.
Factors that led to the coup
- The rise in insecurity and declining economic prospects contributed to fragility in the country.
- Despite the increase in foreign forces, especially from the US and France, and military bases in Niger, the leadership has been unable to stop insurgent attacks. There are several insurgent groups, such as Al-Qaeda and Islamic State affiliates, as well as Boko Haram operating in the country.
- These attacks have resulted in thousands of deaths and displacements in the last decade.
- Hundreds of youths in the capital, Niamey, gathered to celebrate the July coup, waving Russian flags and chanting “Wagner”. This suggests that some people in Niger believe the military, supported by Russia and the private military contractor, Wagner group, would do a better job of fighting insurgents.
- In addition to insecurity and economic stagnation, three other issues help explain the recent coup d’etat.
- Second, the large number of foreign military troops and bases in the country has not been well received by the military.
- They believe this undermines them.
- Niger is a key ally of Western Countries in the fight against insurgency in the region.
- France’s huge investments in Niger’s mining sector are another reason for its interest in security.
- In 2019, the US opened a drone base in Niger despite protests.
- The drone base could make Niger a target for terrorists and increase instability.
- In 2022, France and other European allies withdrew their forces from neighboring Mali. The Nigerian military leadership and some influential individuals in the country denounced the increase in foreign forces.
- Failure of regional organizations such as ECOWAS and the African Union to take a firm stance against military power seizures in Guinea, Burkina Faso and Mali emboldened the Nigerien military.
- In the last four years, there have been seven coup d’etats in the region.
Implications for Niger and the region
- The latest coup d’etat has severe consequences for Niger and the entire Sahel region.
- Niger is a strong ally of Western nations, especially France, the US, and the European Union in fighting insurgency and curbing illegal migration to Europe.
- Efforts to address these issues will be affected. And the new military leaders will want to use these issues as leverage in negotiations and to force acceptance of the new regime.
- The new leaders in Niger might also engage with the Wagner group to combat the Islamist insurgency. The leader of the group has already praised them for seizing power. The influence of Russia and Wagner in the region could grow.
- Yet Wagner has been unable to halt terrorist advancement in Mali and Burkina Faso.
- Finally, a successful military takeover in Niger would be a major drawback for democracy in the region and Africa as a whole.
- The military regimes of Guinea, Mali and Burkina Faso already plan to form a “military alliance”, supposedly to combat insecurity.
- African leaders need to do more to prove that they are working for the masses.
Reasons behind so many coups in Africa
- By 2012, there had been over 200 coups and attempted coups in Africa from their various times of independence.
- There was a coup attempt every 55 days in the 1960s and 1970s, and over 90% of African states had a coup experience.
- We can categorize the causes of coups in West Africa into inward-looking factors and outward-looking factors.
- Inward are those that emanate from challenges of national governance.
- Outward are those concerning global dynamics with a significant impact on governance and security on the continent.
- Governance deficits, non-fulfillment of the entitlements of citizenship, frustrated masses (most of whom are young), and growing insecurity are chief among the inward-looking causes.
- International factors, including external influence, are among the outward-looking.
- These immediate factors, however, exist in a broader context that allows immediate causes to persist long enough to spark coups. Unimpressive democratic conditions in countries, and the consistency of foreign influence in African countries, make it unsurprising that there have been recent attempted and successful military takeovers of government.
The Way Forward
- The conditions under which coups occur are dynamic. To avert future coups and respond to current ones, there must be a radical change of direction.
- Countries, with the help of regional and global partners, must address governance deficits in the form of non-fulfilment of the entitlements of citizenship, socio-economic frustration, and growing insecurity.
- Regional bodies like the Economic Community of West African States and the African Union must also be firm and unbiased in their show of contempt for all types of coups.
- International avenues for punishing coupists must be supported by global powers.
- Global intergovernmental bodies must equally check — and African regional organizations must resist - foreign interference in African countries that leads to political instability.
- Democratization in Africa also requires a re-orientation to suit local circumstances.
- Finally, a more sustainable response to coups is to eliminate the adverse socio-economic and political conditions in national and international politics that allow immediate causes of political instability to hide behind a democratic façade.
Q. Why have there been so many coups in Africa recently? To avert future coups and respond to current ones, there must be a radical change of direction. Elucidate.