Niger’s new military government has reached out to the Russian mercenary group Wagner for assistance as the deadline approaches for the release of the country’s ousted president or the possibility of military intervention by the West African regional bloc, ECOWAS. General Salifou Mody, one of the leaders of the coup, made contact with a representative from Wagner during a visit to Mali. This request is seen as a means for the military government to secure its hold on power. At present, Wagner is considering the request made by Niger’s military government. The intervention deadline set by ECOWAS is set for Sunday and calls for the release and reinstatement of President Mohamed Bazoum.
The defence chiefs from ECOWAS members have already finalized an intervention plan and urged their militaries to prepare resources. However, a mediation team sent to Niger on Thursday was denied entry and a meeting with General Abdourahmane Tchiani, the leader of the military government. General Mody, following his visit to Mali, warned against military intervention, stating that Niger did not want to become a “new Libya.” Niger has been viewed as a reliable partner in counterterrorism efforts in the region, and the military leaders have turned away from France, instead seeking support from Russia.
Wagner, known for its presence in several African countries, including Mali, has faced accusations of human rights abuses in the past. The international community is uncertain how it will react if Wagner intervenes in Niger. When Wagner entered Mali in late 2021, the French military was subsequently removed from the country. Wagner has since been designated a “terrorist” organization by the United States, potentially leading to stronger international reactions.
The situation in Niger has far-reaching implications as the United States and other partners have provided significant military assistance to combat the growing security threats in the region.
Meanwhile, some residents of Niger are skeptical of the military government’s takeover and its potential alliance with Wagner and Russia. They fear that the military leaders are willing to undermine the constitutional order and risk the country’s stability in order to maintain their hold on power.
The details of a potential regional intervention, including its timeline and support from Western forces, remain unclear. Niger’s military government has cautioned the population to be vigilant for spies, and self-organized defense groups are monitoring the capital at night. The possibility of the junta rallying the populace and arming civilian militias could complicate the intervention for ECOWAS.
In addition to the political uncertainty, Niger is also grappling with travel and economic sanctions imposed by ECOWAS, leading to rising prices and limited access to cash. Human rights organizations in Niger have voiced concerns about the consequences of these sanctions, particularly their impact on the supply of essential goods and services.