Pressure is mounting on the Niger coup leaders.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaking on Thursday, said he holds the junta responsible for the welfare of ousted President Mohamed Bazoum, whom the military is holding prisoner.
And ECOWAS, the West African regional power bloc, said it is activating its standby force in case negotiations fail and armed intervention is necessary.
Even as tensions rise in a very volatile region, an expert in African conflict says military action isn’t likely – but the outcome is far from clear.
“It is difficult to predict whether peace will prevail,” Evelyn Namakula Mayanja told Global News.
Mayanja, a professor at Carleton University, said the standby force first requires ECOWAS countries to contribute troops and supplies. Côte d’Ivoire has promised a battalion but the national assembly of Nigeria, which has the largest military and would need to supply most of the troops, hasn’t approved any deployments yet.
Second, the United Nations Security Council needs to approve ECOWAS’ deployment.
Mayanja said the UN — at least, the countries that support the elected president — doesn’t seem concerned with Niger.
“The U.S. the U.K., France, etc., they are now focusing on what is happening in Ukraine,” she said.
“And of course, they are all struggling to ensure that they counteract Russia’s intervention globally.”
Chris Roberts, a political scientist at the University of Calgary, said the Nigerien junta appears to be following the pattern set by other power-seizing militaries in the region by entrenching itself and appointing its own government.
ECOWAS and the United States have called for the military to step aside and reinstate Bazoum, though Roberts says that appears more unlikely.
Roberts said it’s likely the military leaders are trying to force Bazoum to sign a document saying he is resigning, which would give their own implanted politicians more legitimacy.
“Unless (there are) some real dynamic shifts here, it’s going to be tough in the short run to get the military government, the key members of that military government, to actually just say, ‘OK, yeah, we’re just done.’”
If the junta can’t hold on to power it could risk armed conflict, Mayanja said – especially in an area wracked by Islamist insurgents and extreme poverty,
And the consequences, she said, could be devastating because women and children are affected most.
“Wars are fought on women’s bodies. They are sexually violated most of the time,” she said.
“I think it is high time that even the UN Security Council and all politicians put their human person human dignity at the centre of their negotiations.”
— with a file from Reuters
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