The recent coup in Niger has escalated tensions in West Africa as the junta defies ECOWAS’s deadline for reinstating President Mohamed Bazoum.
Niger has closed its airspace following the expiration of a deadline imposed by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for the reinstatement of elected President Mohamed Bazoum. This comes after Bazoum was ousted in a coup by a military junta, marking a significant crisis in West Africa’s diplomatic landscape.
ECOWAS, a regional political and economic union of fifteen West African countries, has been pushing for democratic stability in the region, and military action to reinstate the president is now a possibility. The situation has attracted international attention, with the coup igniting tensions in an already fragile part of the continent.
The coup, which was declared last month by the head of the Presidential Guard, General Abdourahamane Tchiani, blamed a lack of economic growth and continuing insecurity for the ousting of Bazoum. However, the country has long seen divisions between the democratic political sphere and the military, with the last coup attempt being mere days before Bazoum’s inauguration in 2021.
Niger under Bazoum has served as a critical strongpoint for the European Union in an attempt to block illegal migration from Africa, and an important ally from which France has based its military operations on the continent after relations with Malian authorities soured last year. The United States also considers Niger an ally, and has supported the country with foreign aid, some of which has been paused in light of the coup.
African heads of state as well as European and American bodies have condemned the coup, and ECOWAS’ stated deadline for Bazoum’s reinstatement reflected the body’s hard stance against his deposition.
However, the closure of Nigerien airspace yesterday indicates that the junta will not comply with demands, increasing tensions, as it remains to be seen whether this non-compliance will result in a military invention by ECOWAS in the already unstable region.