CrisisWatch Niger

Unchanged Situation

Conflict Risk Alert

West African regional bloc continued to threaten use of force to restore constitutional order; move could trigger major pushback and put Niger and wider region at risk of war.

ECOWAS maintained threat of force to restore constitutional order. Military junta 6 Aug closed Niger’s airspace as West African regional bloc (ECOWAS) seven-day ultimatum to hand power back to elected President Bazoum expired. ECOWAS 10 Aug activated standby force for possible action against junta and 18 Aug reportedly set “D-Day” for military intervention. Regional bloc, which appears divided over course of action, 19 Aug sent delegation to Niger to press coup leader Gen. Tchiani and other junta figures for peaceful return to constitutional order.

Coup leaders found common ground with counterparts in Sahel. Military authorities in Bamako and Ouagadougou 1 Aug jointly said any ECOWAS military intervention in Niger would amount to declaration of war against Mali and Burkina Faso. Senior junta leader, Gen. Salifou Mody, next day met with Malian and Burkinabe transitional presidents in their respective capitals. Coup leaders continued to capitalise on ill feelings toward former colonial power. Junta 25 Aug ordered French ambassador in Niamey, Sylvain Itte, to leave country within 48 hours; French President Macron 28 Aug said Itte would stay at his post, reportedly prompting junta in following days to order police to expel him.

Junta proposed three-year transition to civilian rule. Junta 7 Aug appointed former Finance Minister Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine as interim PM, and 10 Aug announced 21-member interim govt with military officers in charge of six ministries, including defence and interior, and Bazoum’s party holding no ministries. Gen. Tchiani 19 Aug said transition to civilian rule would “not go beyond three years”; also warned ECOWAS that security forces would “not shirk” from defending country. ECOWAS 21 Aug rejected three-year transition plan as “unacceptable”.

Jihadists launched deadliest attacks on military in months. Possibly emboldened by political upheaval in Niamey, suspected jihadists 15 Aug ambushed military detachment near Koutougou town, Tillabery region (south west), killing 17 soldiers and wounding another 24. Another ambush 20 Aug killed 12 soldiers in Anzourou commune, also Tillabery, with military reporting “heavy losses” among assailants.  

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