The chiefs of staff of the West African armies are due to meet in Ghana this Thursday to discuss the modalities of a possible armed intervention in Niger, where at least 17 soldiers were killed Tuesday in an attack by suspected jihadists.
A crucial West African military meeting is to be held until Friday in Accra, Ghana, where details of the planned military intervention aimed at reinstating President Mohamed Bazoum overthrown by the coup d’état will be discussed. July 26.
If the option of an armed operation remains on the table, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) still seems to favor the path of dialogue and diplomacy with the military regime in power in Niamey.
This meeting comes two days after at least 17 Nigerien soldiers were killed and 20 others injured in an attack by suspected jihadists in southwest Niger near the Burkina Faso border.
In a press release released on Tuesday, ECOWAS mentioned “various attacks perpetrated by armed groups” having ” caused the death of several Nigerien soldiers”, without specifying the dates thereof.
Condemning “firmly” these attacks, the organization called on the military regime in Niamey to “restore constitutional order” in the country to concentrate “on security” who is “further weakened since the attempted coup”.
Niger has been facing regular attacks from jihadist groups for several years.
Tuesday’s attack is the deadliest since the coup d’état by the military and General Abdourahamane Tiani, at their head, which they justify by ” the deterioration of the security situation.
The World Food Program (WFP) warned on Wednesday that regional sanctions imposed by ECOWAS and border closures “greatly affected the supply of Niger in vital food and medical supplies,” asking “urging all parties to facilitate humanitarian exemptions.”
American “involvement” continues
Calls for a peaceful resolution to this crisis have increased in recent days, including among certain Western partners such as the United States, which announced on Wednesday that a new ambassador, Kathleen FitzGibbon, would soon settle in Niamey.
“This is not a sign of a change in US policy but of their continued involvement” to find a diplomatic solution, however, specified a spokesperson for the State Department.
Looking for allies in the region.
On Tuesday, the Prime Minister appointed by the military in Niamey, Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine, went to N’Djamena where he was received by the Chadian transitional president Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno.
For the first time he said his country was “in a process of transition”, without however specifying its duration before possible elections for a return to constitutional order.
Chad, a major military power in the Sahel region, announced last week that it would not participate in any military intervention alongside ECOWAS, to which it does not belong.
Neighboring Mali and Burkina, also led by soldiers who came to power through coups in 2020 and 2022, quickly displayed their solidarity with the generals of Niamey.
The latter remain inflexible for the moment and have held deposed president Mohamed Bazoum prisoner since July 26, whom they intend to prosecute for “high treason”.
They believe that a military operation against their country would be a “ illegal and senseless aggression” and promised a “immediate response” to any aggression.
The Nigerien army has been mobilized for years in the fight against jihadists, particularly in the immense region of Tillabéri, located in the so-called “three borders” zone between Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali, where the attack Tuesday took place.
Before the coup, France, the former colonial power which has 1,500 soldiers in Niger, actively participated with the Nigerien army in the fight against these jihadist groups. She has since become one of the favored targets of the new regime in Niamey, which accuses her of influencing the decisions of ECOWAS.