August 7, 2023


On July 26th, the presidential guard in Niger “overthrew the democratically elected government of President Mohamed Bazoum, adding to a growing list of military regimes in West Africa’s Sahel region and raising fears of regional destabilization.” AP News

“At [last] Thursday’s protest organized by the junta and civil society groups on Niger’s independence day, protesters pumped their fists in the air and chanted support for neighboring countries where militaries have also taken power in recent years. Some waved Russian flags, and one man brandished a Russian and Nigerien flag sewn together.” AP News

“As the military overthrow stretches into its second week, U.S. officials refuse to formally call it a coup, saying they retain hope of a return to civilian government. Junta leaders announced late Thursday that they were severing Niger’s military partnerships with France, the country’s colonial ruler, but they have said nothing about doing the same regarding the hundreds of millions of dollars of training and support from the United States, signaling they may have hope of working with Washington. The U.S. says it suspended military cooperation since the first days of Bazoum’s detention.” AP News

A deadline given by a bloc of other West African nations to the Nigerien military junta to reinstate the ousted president ran out with no sign of a military intervention by neighbors.” New York Times

Both sides worry that the coup will impede anti-terrorism efforts and also about Russia’s expanding influence in the region:

This turmoil threatens counterterrorism efforts in a region where al Qaeda and Islamic State affiliates Boko Haram and Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin are active. Last year the Sahel accounted for 43% of the world’s terrorism deaths, up from 1% in 2007, according to the Institute for Economics and Peace. The region saw more bloodshed than South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa combined in 2022…

“Niger has played a constructive role in regional security. Some 1,100 U.S. troops and as many as some 1,500 French troops operate there. A $110 million U.S. drone base in Agadez is a key operational outpost for the region north of the Sahara, including Libya and Algeria. All that is now at risk.”

Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“[Coup leader Gen. Abdourahamane] Tchiani’s claim to power rests on the idea that Bazoum’s government had failed to deal with the violent Islamist extremism that has festered in the region over the past decade. That claim has driven coups elsewhere in the region, such as Mali. Military leaders can present themselves as a strong security alternative in unstable and violent nations, but in the case of Niger, the security situation was actually improving, especially in relation to its neighbors in the Sahel region…

“Approximately 40 percent of all violent activity by Islamist groups in Africa occurs in the Sahel — more than any other African region. The terror — summary executions, kidnappings, rapes, and looting — that groups like the Jama’at Nusrat al Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM) coalition, Ansaroul Islam, Ansar Dine, and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) perpetrate is real, and it is devastating. But if the situations in Mali and Burkina Faso are any example, military rule only exacerbates the violence.”

Ellen Ioanes, Vox

“The United States spends hundreds of billions of dollars on diplomacy, defense, and intelligence and yet, across administrations, it only reacts after the fact rather than implements a proactive strategy across countries, regions, and continents… The idea that Russian flags materialize organically on the streets of dusty African cities is naïve. Rather, it appears once again the United States has been blindsided… Nor is Niger the only chip now falling…

“On July 30, 2023, the Central African Republic will hold a referendum that will enable President Faustin-Archange Touadéra to trade his country’s sovereignty for personal power and privilege. The Wagner Group [of Russian mercenaries] dominates the lucrative mining sector across the north of the country. Military juntas have made similar devil’s bargains in Mali and Burkina Faso, and the Wagner Group currently seeks to extend its winning streak by establishing a presence in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and perhaps even the Côte d’Ivoire.”

Michael Rubin, American Enterprise Institute

“The coups in Niger, Sudan, Burkina Faso and Mali display an astonishing resemblance to each other… Joseph Siegele, director of research at the Africa Center for Security Studies in Washington, said that after the coup in Burkina Faso ‘Telegram accounts linked to Wagner that were openly saying ‘Niger is our next target,’’ Siegele also observed that, ‘Russia has been interested in seeing a military takeover, which maybe provides an opportunity for them to get more influence.’…

[This] may explain why Putin did not disband Wagner after the June mutiny, because of its centrality to Russia’s global strategy. Clearly the West, despite its superior aggregate power in all dimensions, still lacks any idea of how to coordinate them on behalf of a comprehensive strategy. Nor does it yet fully appreciate the rising importance of African countries to the global contest now underway. While it is not too late to forge such a strategy, if we want to help African states prosper, improve their conditions and reduce the likelihood of new conflicts, the time to begin doing so is now.”

Stephen Blank, The Hill

Other opinions below.

See past issues

From the Right

From the Left

Get troll-free political news.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.