Dynamics Behind Niger Coup

Photo source: BBC

By Naveed Qazi | Editor, Globe Upfront

The situation in Niger is a terrible blow to western efforts to stabilise this part of Africa. The coup had received support from two neighbouring nations, Burkina Faso and Somalia. It is also a wake-up call regarding the developing political reality of a continent that has now attracted a multiplicity of players. Many sections of Africans view western nations as colonial powers trying to further manipulate the geographical volatility in the continent. It has only led to an increase of the activity of jihadist groups. Niger is now the fourth West African country, after Guinea, Mali, and Burkina Faso, whose leader has been overthrown by a military coup in the past three years.

Paradoxically, Niger was one of the few states where the jihadist offensive was actually losing strength since 2022 or so. Not even this success story has prevented the political instability from spreading. Who lost Niger? The coup is probably the last nail in the coffin of French policy in West Africa.

The coup leaders had reportedly signed a contract with the Wagner group for troop deployment in Niger’s capital, Niamey.

The failure of colonial game being played in Africa eventually irked Macron, who wanted to offer a new, more balanced vision for the region, but France’s permanent military presence proved a powerful counterargument. That is why it is now reduced to an inconsequential player due to its tactics.

Kicked out of Mali in 2022, French forces thought they had found a haven in neighbouring Niger, led by a friendly president, Mohamed Bazoum. Now, its new rulers have asked Paris to withdraw its 1,500 troops. For the Americans, who maintain two important military bases and 1,100 men in Niger, the lesson is also a virulent one.

As per inputs by Financial Times, US deputy secretary of state, Victoria Nuland, found out in August 2023 in Niamey that trying to negotiate a return to constitutional order with a brigadier general and three colonels was not a desirable thing to do. Particularly when the general, Moussa Salaou Barmou, who graduated with a masters in strategic security studies from National Defense University in Washington, was seen by the Pentagon as its best partner in the fight against Islamist extremism.

The Biden administration now finds itself in a quandary: So far, Washington has been hoping for a diplomatic solution that would allow its forces to stay in landlocked Niger in pledge for a sort of democratic transition.

Macron has also learned the hard way how Vladimir Putin, while pretending to know nothing about the role played by Wagner mercenaries in Africa, has used this reason, as well as disinformation campaigns, to spread Moscow’s influence. The extent to which Russia, burdened by its war in Ukraine, can redirect resources to a new operation in Africa may be doubtful.

The hard questions on the disastrous record of democratic governance in sub-Saharan nations should also not be ignored. Niger, one of the poorest countries in Africa, twice the size of Texas, may be partly covered by desert. But it still provides fertile ground for great power competition to outside players.

When it comes to Russia’s policy in Africa, it uses KGB-style hybrid methods and has revived the Cold War tactics used by the Soviet Union. Moscow uses its African proxies, such as the Wagner mercenary group, to exploit the turmoil and fragility in Africa for its own gain. They have also done many human rights abuses which are largely yet to be exposed. By backing African leaders with financial and military aid and promoting pro-Moscow regimes, Moscow seeks to secure its foothold in this region that is vital for the West. Russia’s strategy in Africa remains unchanged despite the Wagner rebellion. Instead of relying on one group, Russia is seeking to create multiple militias like Wagner to diversify its operations in Africa. Russia is trying to expand its influence in Africa, but it faces several challenges. According to the Afrobarometer survey, most Africans regard China as their main partner, while Russia has low popularity in 
the continent. Russia also lacks significant investment and trade in Africa.

The United States of America did not take a very strong stance against the coup, despite condemning it and evacuating its citizens from Niger. Strategically, it also wants to see a halt in the export of mineral resources from these countries to Europe and increase Africa’s dependence on the United States.

Policy experts suggest that there needs to be an importance of compromise among conflict parties to avoid militarising the next steps and to include civilians in the transition


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