What are ECOWAS intervention scenarios in Niger?


All most all the leaders of countries members at the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), have decided to move forward towards deploy reserve force to restore constitutional order in Niger.

According to statements made by Côte d’Ivoire President Alassane Ouattara, who settled speculation about the possibility of ECOWAS retreating from the military option in the face of external and internal pressures.

The military intervention of ECOWAS in Niger carries several different scenarios, given the presence of several internal and external factors.

In order to analyze the possible scenarios ahead of ECOWAS possible military intervention in Niger, the need to look at what are the obstacles ECOWAS is facing in this regard.

Nigeria, the largest military force in ECOWAS, which borders Niger, is facing a refusal from the Senate to participate in any military operation, under pressure from tribal elders and religious leaders in some northern Muslim-majority states.

Countries led by coup military councils in ECOWAS such as Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea and Niger itself, oppose any military solution.

On the contrary, Mali, Burkina Faso, even threatened to enter the war on the side of the military council in Niger.

Not to mention the refusal of Algeria, Niger’s northern neighbor, to any military intervention that would exacerbate the security situation in the Sahel region.

Chad, Niger’s western neighbor – which isn’t a member of ECOWAS – doesn’t support the military solution, especially since it’s also under the leadership of a military council that has suspended the work by constitution in their country.

However, on the international side, France, who was damaged severely from the military coup in Niger, supports military operation that will restore its ally, the overthrown President Mohamed Bazoum, back to power.

Remaining in Europe, Italy isn’t enthusiastic about any Western intervention in the region that would be interpreted as a return to colonialism in Africa, as stand points og Italian Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni were clear, long before she comes to power in Italy, as she harshly criticized France’s policies on the African continent, specifically in Niger, in her many statements.

The United States, is taking a varies position, as at one time announcing its support for the Algerian position in support of diplomatic solutions, and on other occasions affirms its support for ECOWAS, which made its choice by going towards the military solution in Niger.

Russia, on the other hand, who appeared for many observers, the biggest beneficiary of the Niger coup, despite the fact calling for the release of Niger’s overthrown president from Custody.

Russia is taking measures to strengthen its influence in the Sahel region and the African continent as whole, at the expense of historical influential countries over Africa mainly France.

Moreover, with the fact that ECOWAS countries acknowledge that, it decided to take the military choice to resolve the situation in Niger, even without earning legitimacy from the UN Security Council, with obvious fact that any move taken in this direction will be met with a Russian Veto, and perhaps Chinese as well, or at best a Chinese abstention.

Another important factor that will be a real obstacle in the face of ECOWAS choosing the military option in Niger is the presence of elements of the Wagner forces in Mali, which announced that they would go to Niger in the event of a military intervention against the coup authority there.

In Niger, the head of the presidential guard, General Abdourahamane Tchiani, who led the coup and later backed by the Niger’s army commanders in a confused way to avoid bloodshed, enjoys the support of thousands of Nigeriens in the capital, Niamey, which Bazoum was unable to win in the presidential elections that brought him to power in the first place.

As only a few dozen supporters of Bazoum moved to demonstrate on the first day of the coup, and the country didn’t witness any massive demonstrations against the coup, even in the states supporting it in the north and east.

The most important internal development in favor of Bazoum however, was the announcement by Raisa Ag Bola, minister and former leader of the Tuareg rebels in Niger, to establish the “Council of Resistance for the Republic,” with the aim of restoring constitutional order.

All these disparate factors put ECOWAS in front of a complex scene, with several possible scenarios:


Scenario No.1: The success of ECOWAS military intervention

ECOWAS countries are mobilizing their forces, whether in Nigeria or Benin, which borders Niger.

Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal, along with Nigeria and Benin, have declared their readiness to participate.

Observers and experts believe that, the most optimistic of this scenario expects that as soon as the forces move towards Niamey, the putschists will flee before them, and that a second coup by the leadership of the military council will topple the current military authority, paving the way for the overthrown president Mohamed Bazoum’s return to power, or to a short transitional period coordinated by ECOWAS that ends with quick presidential elections.

This scenario of course, is based on the fact that the Niger’s army commanders don’t have positions against the return of Bazoum, but rather supported the coup of the commander of the presidential guard to avoid bloodshed.

In case of ECOWAS intervened and clashed with the presidential guard, then the army commanders would abandon their support, to the military coup authority and thus the coup would collapse quickly with minimal casualties.

The French forces stationed in Niamey can move to support the ECOWAS forces and liberate Bazoum, in order to avoid the scenario of his assassination, as they had previously intervened militarily in Côte d’Ivoire in 2011, after President Laurent Gbagbo refused to hand over power to Alassane Ouattara, who won the presidential elections in December, 2010.

The movement of the Tuareg tribes in the north would disperse the modest units of the Niger army over a vast and remote desert area, where the Tuareg had always had their say, not to mention that the bulk of Niger’s army units are busy fighting terrorist groups in the border region of Tillaberi state in the west, and also in the east in Diffa state, especially in the Lake Chad region.

The Niger army, whose doesn’t exceed 11,000 soldiers in 2021, despite previous announcement from the overthrown president that he raised the number to 50,000, cannot wage war with the ECOWAS in the south, while its forces are engaged in fighting in the west and east, and a potential threat in the north.


Scenario No.2: The failure of ECOWAS military intervention

Which is the closest expectation to happen in the eyes of many observers who relied on a number of factual data.

In case ECOWAS was able to mobilize the largest number of armed forces, with more advanced weapons, and the use Air force, with possible French military support, whether directly or through the provision of weapons and equipment, as well as US logistical support, it’s difficult to resolve the battle.

The difficulty increases even more if Mali and Burkina Faso intervenes alongside the Niger army, along with Wagner’s forces, which will achieve a kind of balance, and thus prolong the fighting, which won’t serve the ECOWAS, and would put a nail in the coffin of the organization itself, in the eyes of the most pessimistic.

The length of the war will also lead to the weakening of the home front in ECOWAS, especially Nigeria, whose participation in the process doesn’t have domestic support, which will push it to withdraw in some point, and this case, with the largest force in ECOWAS withdraws, this will lead to the failure and the collapse.

The important point that must be taken into account in this regard is that the Nigerien army is also in the midst confrontations against several terrorists forces back home, like Boko Haram and ISIS West Africa in the northeast of the country for years.

Given that the United States, France and the European Union are preoccupied with supporting Ukraine in its war against Russia, they won’t be able to provide sufficient ammunition and weapons to ECOWAS, which makes its ability to fight a long war in question.

Without a quick and sweeping victory that will bring Bazoum back to power, ECOWAS will become part of the crisis rather than a means to solve it, and may become vulnerable to disintegration, especially as the leaders of the military councils in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso carried out their threats to withdraw from the organization.


Scenario No.3: One word say all… Chaos!

If ECOWAS countries with constitutional regimes participate in the war against the military councils in Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso with the possibility of Guinea joining, the region will flare up in a regional war that may extend beyond the borders of Niger, which is what the military council threatened to do.

If the United States and France support the ECOWAS forces, and if Russia supplies the Nigerian coup authority with heavy weapons and ammunition, add to that Wagner forces, then it will turn into a proxy war, and the entire region and the African continent as a whole, will joint into an inferno of ​​fighting and the size of the victims will increase which will lead to a huge humanitarian catastrophe.

And if the Tuareg rebelled in the north with French support, and the putschists held firm in Niamey, this would trigger the scenario of secession in the north of the country, which suffers from marginalization and embraces gold deposits and uranium mines, an American air base for drones, and French investments in uranium extraction.

If the Tuareg political entity is formed in northern Niger, this will encourage them to move north of Mali, southern Algeria and southwestern Libya, to build a unified state for the Tuareg tribes, which will ignite the region with another war that has nothing to do with the ECOWAS.

This is what prompted the Algerian army chief of staff, General, Said Chengriha, to confirm recently that the Algerian army is ready to confront any danger that affects the country, whatever its type and size.

The other and more dangerous threat is the terrorist groups exploiting the Niger army’s preoccupation with the war in the south against the ECOWAS, to seize the cities and villages of northern, western and even eastern Niger, and to expand into Mali, Burkina Faso and Nigeria, which may be attributable if the war is prolonged.

The African west coastal states are distinguished by their vast areas, their small population, their arid desert, their armies that are small in number, weak in equipment, and the spread of poverty.

The African Sahel countries collapse under the fire of a regional and international war that far exceeds their ability to bear, large waves of migrants will crawl by the millions towards North Africa, especially Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco, and through them towards Europe, which threatens the stability of these countries, and plunges these regions into extended and multifaceted chaos.

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